MOZART Nine Late Symphonies
Nos 33-41 and No 32 (Overture in the Italian style)
Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto/Peter Maag
Arts 47560-2 (4 CDs, 1996-97 - 256 mins]
Musical Pointers concentrates more upon unusual repertoire and does not attempt to keep up with re-recordings of standard 'canonic' repertoire. Additionally, I had found the Mozart Bicentenary celebrations in 1991, with wall-to-wall Mozart for a whole year, a considerable turn-off, and subsequently have tended to avoid listening often to the too-familiar masterpieces, whose freshness had palled for me.
This collection of Mozart symphonies was requested for review for a particular reason, my vivid memory of hearing Peter Maag conduct Figaro at Glyndebourne in 1959, during the period between the death of the founder-music director, Fritz Busch, and the appointment of Vittorio Gui.
I had found Maag's a wonderful interpretation which lodged in my internal card index as something very special, a lightness and elegant, expressive phrasing which made me wonder whether he was being considered for the directorship. In fact he never conducted again at Glyndebourne and I lost sight of him thereafter.
These Mozart recordings immediately bridged that gap of over forty years, showing the same qualities which make him, I am convinced, a very special Mozart conductor. Maag, who was a Furtwangler pupil, appears to have a close relationship with the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, and I note that they have also recorded a Beethoven cycle.
Maag's phrasing of the lyrical melodies is both natural and involving; I found myself drawn on to play the three on 47398-2 (Nos 31, 33 & 34) straight through; quite against my usual sparing selectivity. This Italian chamber orchestra is responsive to his every slight inflection and emphasis - hear, for example, the phrasing of the beginning of the G minor K.550, instantly cativating, or the tiny pause before the last two notes of the theme of the K.543 in Eb finale, which will make you smile - and it is all underpinned by a firm pulse. The Linz (No 36), in which I had a special interest since hearing Bruno Walter's revelatory rehearsal of it on LP, has an overall poise and 'rightness' of tempi and articulation that makes it surely amongst the finest accounts on record. I could go on - - .
ARTS fairly claims that these recent digital recordings 'offer the qualities of the great German tradition as well as the refinement of the modern philology and the "Italian" sound of the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto'.
No comparisons offered in this most competitive field but, at bargain price, and with excellent sound from the Auditorium Modigliani in Padua and just the right amount of reverberation, this is a delightful boxed set which should be considered by all who might like to refresh their Mozart collections.
© peter grahame woolf 2003