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Thread: Best recordings of Mozart's late symphonies?

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    Member Caryatid's Avatar
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    Default Best recordings of Mozart's late symphonies?

    What are your preferred recordings of Mozart's late symphonies? I'm thinking of symphonies 38-41, but sets of 35-41 or just 39-41 are also welcome.

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    Senior Member Brahmsian Colors's Avatar
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    My favorites of the late Mozart Symphonies are 38,39 and 41. I prefer Klemperer and Szell here, and also Bruno Walter's mono New York Philharmonic performances of Numbers 39 and 41.
    Last edited by Brahmsian Colors; Jun-04-2020 at 19:33.

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    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Oh wow: there are many. There are those by Pinnock and by Krips (not as different interpretively as you might expect although the sound certainly is different). Norrington's last four symphonies with the London Classical Players is wonderful. And then there is Klemperer - very different but impressive. And both Harnoncourt and Savall have made recordings of the last three as one piece ... and both of these are very recommendable. Maag is also excellent as is Bruno Walter. I do also quite like Tate's big band accounts - a shame he was going against the emerging fashion when he made them. The Suitner recordings are also good, as are Bernstein's. I've not mentioned Beecham partly because he recorded them several times and it can get confusing ... but he had a special affinity with Mozart and should be checked out.

    I suppose the Mackerras with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is also recommendable - many love it - but I find it a little driven (which is for me the death of a Mozart performance). Karajan is too sweet for me in these works and Bohm is too focused on style. I didn't greatly like Marriner's Mozart either.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Jun-05-2020 at 12:06.

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    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Harnoncourt and the RCO! I am not a great Mozart enthousiast (understatement), but I find #40 by this combination a great piece of music. Highly remarkable tempi, IMO very true to the music.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Bruno Walter, Frans Brüggen, Rene Jacobs, Christoph von Dohnanyi.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    There are so many good performances of Mozart, it's almost easier to tell you which to avoid.

    In the avoid column: Jeffrey Tate/ECO, boring, slow, overly precious.

    Not great: Neville Marriner/OSMF, less boring but still too precious. Karajan/Berlin, just don't come together for me.

    In the dark horse column: Gerard Schwartz/LA Chamber Orchestra, on Delos, believe it or not. Not at all a conductor I often recommend. Just 40 & 41, I think.

    In the "I don't get it" column: Böhm/Vienna. Why do people like these? They're so square.

    A few I like, in no particular order.
    Harnoncourt, RCO or COE (modern), and Concentus Musicus Wien (period.)
    Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic.
    Szell, Cleveland Orchestra.
    Pinnock, English Concert (period.)
    Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

    There are others. Walter, for sure.
    Last edited by Knorf; Jun-05-2020 at 13:19.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    In the "I don't get it" column: Böhm/Vienna. Why do people like these? They're so square.
    Don't ask me - I've never understood why people recommend Böhm for Mozart. Much as I admire his work in other music (especially Richard Strauss), his Mozart is invariably charmless and dull. That's true of the symphonies, and just as true in opera. Wunderlich aside, it's hard for me to fathom why anyone would choose to listen to Böhm's Zauberflöte.
    Last edited by wkasimer; Jun-05-2020 at 15:06.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    Don't ask me - I've never understood why people recommend Böhm for Mozart. Much as I admire his work in other music (especially Richard Strauss), his Mozart is invariably charmless and dull. That's true of the symphonies, and just as true in opera.
    Wunderlich aside, it's hard for me to fathom why anyone would choose to listen to Böhm's Zauberflöte.
    Agreed on all points! I'm also not fond of Böhm's Beethoven Pastoral Symphony, at all.
    Last edited by Knorf; Jun-05-2020 at 14:00. Reason: Apostrophes, how do they work?

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    I’m always up for listening to recordings of 35-41, and I’ve heard a ton of them. The two I keep in my collection are Harnoncourt/Concentus musicus Wien (period) and Szell/Cleveland (modern).

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    Walter, Reiner, Szell are all very fine...Walter, both NYPO and ColSO - he always takes a warm, more "romantic" approach to Mozart, very lyrical, with beautiful vocal lines maintained [crucial to Mozart]
    Solti was also a very fine Mozart conductor - I heard him conduct #s 39 and 41 live...very good, predictably muscular and energetic, but well-phrased and very clear. He recorded 38, 39, 40, 41...also a splendid #25 [CSO archival set - CSO - 1st 100 Years]

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    It’s really only the last three symphonies that hold my attention. Walter is the greatest Mozart conductor I’ve heard. You can just tell he has such passionate, loving enthusiasm for the music and he lavishes such warmth and beauty upon every phrase that it makes even people who are kinda lukewarm on Mozart like me shout for joy. Next Klemperer who, unlike Bohm, knows how to bring a “stoic Germanic” approach to the music while dropping the elephantine trudge. So light, graceful, and balanced. We can’t forget about Szell and his amazingly vital accounts (his Jupiter converted me to Mozart’s symphonies after previously hearing nothing but whiny, anemic HIP versions) and Bernstein’s rousing recordings in Vienna either. HIP Mozart normally isn’t my jam, but I really like Jordi Savall’s 2019 recording of the last three. Brash, impolite, and in-your-face, which ain’t a bad way to have your Mozart.
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Jun-05-2020 at 15:08.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    It’s really only the last three symphonies that hold my attention. Walter is the greatest Mozart conductor I’ve heard. You can just tell he has such passionate, loving enthusiasm for the music and he lavishes such warmth and beauty upon every phrase that it makes
    I love Walter's quote about Mozart:
    “When I was very young, when I was a teenager, then I was only enthusiastic for the great pathos and the big emotions, and Mozart seemed to me at that time too quiet, too tranquil. Youth is more apt to love the shout and the great gestures. ... I fell into the same category. It needs some maturity to understand the depth of emotion that speaks in Mozart’s seeming tranquility and measure.”


    We can’t forget about Szell and his amazingly vital accounts (his Jupiter converted me to Mozart’s symphonies after previously hearing nothing but whiny, anemic HIP versions)
    Right, Reiner is very similar - very virile, energetic, but clean and transparent....not sure about Szell, but I believe Reiner used reduced string sections for Mozart, which enhances the clarity, and lets the wonderful woodwind parts come thru with great clarity. Szell achieves this as well.

    If you'll forgive me "tooting my own horn" - one of my favorite #38 "Prague" Symphony recordings is one which my own Chamber Orchestra produced in the late 90s - With a wonderful conductor, I contracted a great orchestra. Small string section, but really heavy hitters - I had Boston Symphony violinists, Boston Ballet, Esplanade Pops personnel in the string section, plus superb wind players....We only used 11 violins - 6-5 - but what a sound!! [strings were, IIRC - 6-5-4-3-2, (I think, it was a while ago)]
    Wonderful clarity, yet the string sound was certainly husky enough - really vigorous, gutsy performance.....terrific dynamic range...was a real highlight for me...
    Last edited by Heck148; Jun-05-2020 at 15:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    Don't ask me - I've never understood why people recommend Böhm for Mozart. Much as I admire his work in other music (especially Richard Strauss), his Mozart is invariably charmless and dull. That's true of the symphonies, and just as true in opera. Wunderlich aside, it's hard for me to fathom why anyone would choose to listen to Böhm's Zauberflöte.
    I haven't heard that much of him in Mozart over the years so I'm not taking issue with this in any general way, but he did a fine job of accompanying Pollini in piano concertos 19 and 23 on a DG recording in (I think) the 70s.
    Last edited by Animal the Drummer; Jun-05-2020 at 19:30.

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    I have Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's live performance of the last three symphonies.

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    No one has mentioned No.29 symphony. What a wonderful slow movement. There are some masterpieces aside from 35-41 promoted by the "marketing" department.

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