March in D, K335Serenade in D, K320 (Posthorn)
Symphony No.35 in D, K385 (Haffner)
Concentus Musicus Wien
Recorded June & December 2012 in Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2014
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL 88883720682
Duration: 71 minutes
Musical food for thought! Unpredictable and maverick, Nikolaus Harnoncourt introduces the ‘Posthorn’ Serenade with the historical precedent of a March, here tangy and abrasive, trumpets, timpani and a flamboyant oboist to the fore; add in col legno strings to complete a vivid and ceremonial entrée. Then it’s straight into the majestic introduction to the Serenade proper, the ensuing Allegro made bracing but with the second subject maybe too expressively malleable. This expansive seven-movement work responds well to Harnoncourt’s non-slavish ‘authentic’ machinations. Not everything convinces, mind, but there is a zeal and imagination at work that ensures engaged listening.
What does become wearing though is the unvaried fortissimo of the brass, uplifting at first, then unrelieved in stridency until ultimately boorish. But there’s also a range of refinement and subtlety in evidence, so that the middle movements, those that are graceful and dance, have much charm, a variety of colour and, with the fifth movement Andantino, a depth of feeling that seems out of place as part of a score entitled Serenade, and in which Harnoncourt plays up dynamic and emotional contrasts with intensity. As for the instrument that gives the work its nickname, the Corno di Posta that solos in the second Trio of the sixth-movement Minuet is securely played by Andreas Lockner, a first-class male! The finale passes by exuberantly.
As for the also-wonderful ‘Haffner’ Symphony, once again one appreciates the energy, dedication and skill of all the musicians, but although Harnoncourt is not to mistaken for anybody but himself, his tendency to exaggeration and mannerism, one particularly twee moment in the finale in particular, do pose some doubts, the more so given the permanence of recordings. This though is a bold, vivid and strongly accented reading that also sports half-light dynamics and a beguiling tapestry of detail, Whether to repeat the first-movement exposition is a moot point when some editions do not print it – Harnoncourt does not – but he does observe both halves of the Andante, which even at his ‘quick walk’ tempo is still longer than its predecessor and in which Harnoncourt opts convincingly for short grace-notes. The finale, measured in speed, Harnoncourt countering the Presto marking, is fiery in its delivery. The recorded sound is excellent in its clarity and impact.
You like Mozart’s music to be genteel, the equivalent of a warm and comforting inglenook? This release ain’t for you then.