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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
(1756 - 1791)
Symphony No 41 in C Major, K551. "Jupiter" [36.11]
Symphony No 39 in E Flat Major. K543. [29.54]
Si mostra la sorte. K209* [ 4.19 ]
Per pieta, non ricercare, K420* [ 6.54 ]
English Chamber Orchestra
Peter Pears (tenor)*
Benjamin Britten.
Recorded Blythburgh Church, Suffolk. 14 June 1966 (K551) BBC Studios June 10 1962 (K543, K209, K420) ADD K551 STEREO Rest of disc MONO
DECCA 466 820 - 2 [77.24]

On the Decca label is a new series "Britten at Aldeburgh" that draws upon its own archives and those of the BBC to release for the first time on CD material that features Britten in the role of performer at his beloved Suffolk Festival. 'Performing' in this context includes Britten at the keyboard, and, as here on this disc, in his role as conductor with what was a virtual 'house orchestra' of Aldeburgh at the time - the ECO. The discs come with in-depth articles by various Britten specialists and this features an interesting piece on Britten's conducting of Mozart by Paul Kildea.

This CD is an all Mozart compilation - probably the composer nearest to Britten's heart throughout his lifetime and his affection for the music is apparent throughout. The performances of the two symphonies have an old-fashioned feel to them in their observation of all repeats and the choice of tempi that could be best described as measured. The music has space to breathe, and even at these tempi there is still time for added rubato (for instance near the start of the Jupiter's Second Movement). There are many delights in the playing - notably in the reminders of the fine woodwind section the ECO had at the time and in the way these inner parts are brought out by the conductor. Even so, sadly, the disc does not inspire. Hopes of something special in readings of two of the last great symphonies were let down by playing that failed to catch fire and sounded almost routine. The strings at times sound thin and there are some lapses in the studio performance (No 39) that surprisingly remained unedited. As musical documents that we now must begin to think of as historical these give an insight into one great composer's view of another but they cannot be serious contenders for a potential purchaser of the two Mozart symphonies. Two concert arias complete the disc with Peter Pears in fine voice in both.

The recordings show their ages and this contributes to a disc that leaves the listener with a feeling of less than whole-hearted enthusiasm.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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