Andrew Manze conducts Mozart Symphonies – G-minor and Jupiter, K550/K551 [NDR Radiophilharmonie; Pentatone]

4 of 5 stars

Symphony No.40 in G-minor, K550
Symphony No.41 in C, K551 (Jupiter)

NDR Radiophilharmonie
Andrew Manze

Recorded in the Großer Sendesaal des NDR Landesfunkhaus, Hannover – on 21-24 February 2017 (K550) & 5-8 March 2018

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: February 2019
PTC 5186 757 [SACD]
Duration: 75 minutes



There are no surprises here: that Andrew Manze favours quick allegros and flowing andantes, but he doesn’t rush; that every repeat is observed, a boon in the Finale of the ‘Jupiter’ (the repetition of both halves is vital), but unwieldy and causing an imbalance with the slow movement of K550, which becomes nearly double the length of the first one; and that he introduces some ‘period’ manners into the music – reduced vibrato and a tendency to over-emphasise accents, although the string-strength isn’t undernourished and the (left-positioned) bass line is firmly founded.

Of course, regarding repeats, Manze is doing no more than observing the score to the letter; and while K550’s first movement can, to advantage, progress with greater stoicism than this (so that the rhythmic writing for violas is really clarified, such as by Böhm, Giulini and Josef Krips), Manze’s vigorous tempo is persuasively judged and his highlighting of woodwinds (including Mozart’s added clarinets) is vivid, the playing disciplined and committed, as throughout.

But that lengthy diversion through the second movement is too much, for all that it moves along – and, put simply, in this work I really am a straight-through man, no repeats needed in the second and final movements, expression, drive and destination duly enhanced. And Manze certainly drives, and clips, the Minuet, music now given a sense of danger/anguish, to which the mellifluous Trio might be considered by some to appear only after too long a pause and that its tempo does not correspond with Classical exactness to its surrounds; on its return the Minuet is again played twice-through (I did say every repeat is taken, although what to do with Minuet da capos in this regard is a slightly grey area). The Finale is urgent, yet with room found for lyricism.

The ‘Jupiter’ first movement is on the spiky side in terms of timbre, trumpets outweighing timpani, as they also will in the Finale, although there a few good hard-stick bellicose thwacks to be heard, yet a certain gravitas is established, and maintained into the slow movement, here beguilingly sacred (Colin Davis found religious connotations here, too) – not sure we need the (one) repeat either here, but it would be a shame to miss out; and, in case you are wondering, Manze does leisurely, too, as witnessed by the Minuet, brought off with a nice lilt, the Trio appreciably integrated tempo-wise if (again) a little delayed in arriving, as is the return of the dance. As for the contrapuntally miraculous Finale, Manze ensures it’s all there and that it leads inevitably to the ingenious coda, those trumpets ringing out triumphantly at the close.

These are concert performances given in a somewhat reverberant acoustic, but fortunately the audience is hardly noticeable, and applause is removed. Some reservations, yes, but this is one to keep, plenty of personality.

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