In a very full acoustic Oslo Kammerakademi provides a blended sound although greater ‘presence’ from whichever individual instrument carries the melody would have helped. There is however a clear intention to aim at authenticity; ‘period’ instruments are used and a double bass supports the ensemble. In K375, dynamic markings are followed precisely and thoughtful shaping is always evident. All this is encouraging but, while accepting that gentle sforzando chords are part of the lyrical approach, eyebrows are raised as early as bar twenty-five when the music is suddenly faster. There are advantages in this mellow approach, the peaceful central Adagio is expounded with gentle grace and the Finale races smoothly yet with vigour although at bar seventy-four a hint of caution breaks in. These debatable points are small matters when set against those that beset the two Minuets, the first of which sets off brightly but after an enormous pause, the Trio moves slowly and has no positive rhythm; the Minuet da capo is without the concluding two notes. Matters are worse in the second Minuet which is unsteady and includes the spurious extra bar which appears in many a modern score. Another huge gap precedes the Trio which lumbers slowly and every sforzando chord is stressed, throwing the rhythm askew. As for the second Trio – there isn’t one! I know most scores omit it but it is many years since Karl Haas discovered it and should not be ignored.
K388 is given with a greater sense of drama, the first movement starting boldly, but the leading oboe phrase is inaudible at bars five and six, nor can it be heard on the exposition repeat (which anyway enters late) or the recapitulation. There are also examples of slowing for expressive purposes. With these players there is musicality when it comes to a slow movement and this Andante is firmly shaped and euphoniously blended. Once again there is a Minuet which incorporates disturbing elements. As early as bar two the oboe melody gets lost and there is hesitation before each double bar: slight, but enough to spoil the rhythm. A big gap precedes a slack Trio and again the movement ends with notes missing. The many Variations of the Finale raise questions: a tiny pause and a tendency to shift speed at the start of each is evident. At bar one-hundred-and-twenty-four during the repeat, the horns could have done much better and are the untidy chord endings a feature of the very resonant acoustic or is it the absence of a conductor?
In Joseph Triebensee’s delightful arrangements of the Overture and some first-Act arias from La clemenza di Tito, horns are used to replace Mozart’s trumpet parts, so the addition of timpani is justified. It works very well and enriches the impressive sound. Playing with greater vigour than in the Serenades, Oslo Kamerakademi’s instruments stand out in greater relief. Triebensee was a brilliant arranger, and if there remains a tendency towards abrupt speed changes then the playing does the musicians credit and the recording is more detailed, the oboe lines are far better defined.