Leopold Mozart Symphonies

0 of 5 stars

Leopold Mozart
Symphony in C, C1
Symphony in D, D17
Symphony in C, D1
Symphony in G, G14
Symphony (Partia) in C, C4
Symphony in D, D25

London Mozart Players
Matthias Bamert

Recorded 7 & 8 June 2007 in St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London


Reviewed by: Antony Hodgson

Reviewed: December 2008
CD No: CHANDOS
CHAN 10496
Duration: 68 minutes

The titles above are as stated in Chandos’s annotation. I assume that the writer of the informative booklet note, Cliff Eisen, who has catalogued Leopold Mozart’s work and lists 68 symphonies, was not shown the titling – because there are inconsistencies. Chronology is a serious problem and in his catalogue Eisen has numbered the symphonies by alphabetical description of key: C1; C2; C3, etc., then on to D1; D2; D3, and so on. I have access to a thematic catalogue of these works and am further confused. The catalogue lists on a single stave against each work the first few bars of the melody line. It will at once be obvious that something is wrong in the above listing since the third item is listed as “Symphony in C (D1)”. The start of the music is nothing like the theme listed against the D major Symphony identified by Eisen as D1 and the work recorded here is in C. The start of Symphony (C4) is close to (but not exactly the same as) the musical example in my thematic catalogue, but is played an octave lower than written. To sum up, there are musicological problems here that Mr Eisen would surely have sorted out. I look forward to a time when enough evidence can be assembled for a musicologist to list Leopold Mozart’s Symphonies in chronological order and give them numbers.

Despite doubts about identification, this recording presents an admirably adventurous programme and once again I must praise Matthias Bamert for providing further gems from the 18th-century. When performing music of this period, musicians seem terrified of venturing beyond composers with names other than Joseph Haydn or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Bamert has no such qualms and I was amazed how many admirable but neglected composers he has already championed in the “Contemporaries of Mozart” series for Chandos. Musicologists praise such admirable composers as Gyrowetz; Krommer; Mysliveček and Michael Haydn but Bamert is one of the very few actually to perform their music. No doubt Dittersdorf will soon be added to his recorded repertoire (perhaps Chandos hesitates because Naxos has already done much for this composer) but I should like to make a plea to Bamert to provide us with recordings of some of the magnificent symphonies of Gaetano Brunetti whom I consider to be one of the greatest of all those neglected contemporaries – extraordinary in his melodic inspiration and brilliantly original in his orchestration.

This series of six Leopold Mozart Symphonies is fascinating. They have largely emerged from the baroque era and their orchestration is modest: two horns and strings is usual but G14 and C4 are for strings alone. The latter has the lower strings playing a great many of the melodies – there are alternative orchestrations of this work which is also known as a Partia – Bamert seems to be using the one that replaces violas with cellos. Sometimes horns are used in slow movements – this is unusual for the period. The symphonies vary between three and four movements – when there is a minuet (C1; D1; C4) it is always placed second. In Bamert’s readings there are a few moments when a harpsichord can be detected but as so often in modern recordings it is extremely faint. On the other hand, the strings have a very beautiful tone and the elegance of the playing is a delight.

All of these entirely delightful symphonies are played stylishly by an ensemble that clearly shares the conductor’s enthusiasm for this period. Bamert is aware of structure and is sensible about repeats. When he does make omissions, his decision is always geared to providing a logical overall shape to the work in question. The readings are full of subtleties, the strength of the bass line is admirable and the articulation of the lower instruments is exemplary. Bamert also brings character to the swifter movements by ensuring that rhythms are precise but avoiding heavy emphasis; modern instruments are used but evoke the style of the 18th-century with conviction.

It would be useful to know the true identity of that third item – it is in C major but the beginning matches none of the incipits of the four C major symphonies in my catalogue and it is certainly not D1. I shall not worry about this problem because I like this unidentified work very much – probably it has the greatest stature of any on the disc. This is a most attractive recording of tasteful performances.

  • Contributor’s note.
    Tony Hodgson writes … “I am indebted to Robert Dearling who has identified the third item on the above recording as being C2 in Cliff Eisen’s numbering. Dearling correctly suggests that I failed to identify it from the Thematic Catalogue because the incipit was written in the C clef. But this brings up another problem: the Catalogue gives the instrumentation of violas, bass (two cellos, violone and bassoon) and horns but the booklet note advises the scoring as being violins, bass and two horns (no violas). Mr Eisen wrote the note but I do not know if he was responsible for the thematic catalogue which places the musical excerpts against his numbering system. Would any reader wish either to explain or to complicate matters further?
  • Chandos

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