David Threasher
Gramophone
March 2010

Sir Charles Mackerras and his Scottish players are working backwards through Mozart's symphonies. This second volume follows their acclaimed (and award-winning) set of the last four symphonies with a group of works mainly from the latter part of his Salzburg period along with two he composed following his relocation to Vienna. Is another complete edition planned? It would be Sir Charles's second, following his survey with the Prague Chamber Orchestra (Telarc). There are some gaps here: Symphonies Nos 33 and 34, for example, and Nos 28 and 30 which both post-dated No 29. Perhaps they'll appear on Vol 3 with the 'Little' G minor Symphony K183.

These two discs display all the qualities identified by Lindsay Kemp in his review of the later symphonies (4/08). There's a clarity to the acoustic as recorded in Glasgow's City Halls, which Mackerras uses to his advantage, instinctively bringing out telling inner lines: listen especially for the ear-tweaking viola 'stabs' in the second subject of No 29's first movement or the clattering horns at climaxes throughout the symphony. This work, surely Mozart's first symphonic miracle, is given added weight and import by Mackerras's decision to take all repeats, demonstrating especially that the fourth movement is far more than a mere chase finale. Claudio Abbado has also taken the period-informed modern-instrument approach with his hand-picked Orchestra Mozart (A/08; K201 is the one overlap with this selection) but I'm afraid I can't share my colleagues' enthusiasm for his joyless way with this music. The Paris is the least convincing of Mozart's later symphonies but Mackerras knows (and shows) that there's plenty to be discovered beyond the French-pleasing special effects and brilliant orchestration. He also offers both slow movements: Mozart wrote a replacement to appease a cloth-eared audience who didn't recognise a genius when he was among them. More fool them, and alleluia that it's all the more Mozart for the rest of us. In fact there's so much to enjoy on these discs—armfuls of the humanity and wisdom referred to by LK, and vivacity aplenty too in the Haffner and Linz, advanced wayposts on the march towards the unparalleled mastery of the last three symphonies.