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Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 35-41 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
This Von Karajan set on DG seems like an appealing proposition, and in large part it is, but it shouldn't really be your first introduction to these symphonies, or the recording 'of record', so to speak. The Berlin Philharmonic hums with power throughout. The Haffner is rousingly quick and the Linz quite grand in these big-band performances. Any Prague Symphony lacking the repeat of the A section in the middle movement is, as here, really not definitive in my book, but the performance is overall effective. After a hypnotically majestic rendering of the Adagio, Karajan assaults the first movement of Symphony No. 39 with some questionable legato, apparently aiming for a 39th 'you've never heard before.' Well, I haven't, and I don't think Mozart quite intended it either. I tolerate this in some moods better than others, but I tend to find it a troublesome interpretive imposition on some of Mozart's very greatest music. The rest of the symphony is played with sober brilliance, but the maximalist tendencies throughout keep this epic yet delicate music from breathing quite as splendidly as it should. The Romantic take on No. 40 is very worthy, and his Jupiter is substantial. But in all six, we are dealing with an overbearing string section that, whatever the delightful qualities of the other players or the balance of phrasing, simply roars over everything else. Anyone familiar with chamber orchestra recordings (on modern or period instruments) will feel what is lacking. Among 'big-band' interpreters, Bohm and Wand, among others, achieve a much more luminous balance. The Jupiter's molto allegro is powerful, as you'd expect, yet I think Wordsworth, Harnoncourt, and Roger Norrington have all achieved more sublime effect with their smaller forces. On the whole, I think the gem-like slow movements may showcase Karajan and the BPO best here, with the caveat that the weight of the strings tends to detract from the real joys of Mozart's delicate balance of instruments. The overall effect is somewhat cold, though certainly impressive. I'm not ashamed to own it, but please hear these symphonies in at least one other recording; you simply cannot take this set as 'definitive', despite many of its merits.