This is an ideal way to transfer a concert performance to compact disc – the three most vital essentials are here: no audience noise, no applause and a carefully-judged space between each movement. The sound has a comfortable feel to it and the band blends warmly in the fully scored passages; clearly the players are listening carefully to one another. The full-bodied clarinets do not contrast greatly with the delightful low tones of Mozart’s favoured basset horns but in combination they provide rich mid-range harmonies.
In general this is an expressive performance but it includes a few traditional habits which conductors sometimes perpetrate. Ends of movements are rounded off with a slight slowing and Trio sections of Minuets are often preceded by a slight pause and an easing-in to the melody by whatever instruments happen to be featured. In the second Minuet, the bassoons and double bass leave out the last note. With no conductor present, who made these decisions?
These whims apart (and I have heard them in many another performance) this is a lively reading of the music. Tempos tend towards swiftness – especially in the two Minuets – the second of which therefore lacks its essential stateliness. The Adagio third movement is played with great sensitivity with leading oboe and clarinet emerging from the full accompaniment with elegance. Later the ‘Romanze’ also benefits from tender phrasing – the sustained line justifies the slower-than-usual tempo. The second repeat (representing one-minute of music at this pace) is omitted.
The swift view of the faster movements is used to good effect – particularly in the Finale which Mozart marked Molto allegro (Allegro molto in my Breitkopf & Härtel score). The impression of haste is not always advantageous but in this movement, which is played with remarkable accuracy, that feeling engenders excitement.
This skilfully recorded performance is a pleasure to the ear – a fine representation of a concert event skilfully played but it is not a revealing interpretation