Mozart: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran partita); Serenade in D, K100

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran partita); Serenade in D, K100
PERFORMER: Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
Desirable versions of Mozart’s glorious Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments range from the cultured ASMF under Neville Marriner to more abrasive and alfresco period-instrument performances from Frans Brüggen and Philippe Herreweghe. This new recording from the excellent wind contingent of the Tapiola Sinfonietta (with a specially alluring, liquid-toned first clarinet) also has a lot going for it, with vital, imaginative phrasing and a happy balance between euphonious blend and tangy individuality. In the briskly paced outer movements the players exude a crucial sense of fun in the instrumental repartee – and I loved touches like the first bassoon’s witty embellishments in his moment of glory in the finale. The two minuets are vividly characterised and contrasted, the first quite stately, the second snappily paced, its extraordinary first trio (in B flat minor) more than usually troubled and restless. There is also a strong undercurrent of urgency and disquiet in the central section of the Romanze and the minor-keyed variation in the sixth movement. Only in the Adagio did I have any misgivings: here the players can push on a shade rigidly, while the pulsating accompaniment tends to be too much in the foreground, vying for prominence with the sublime cantilena floated by oboe, clarinet and basset-horn. For this reason alone I’d still recommend either the ASMF or, for a period version, Brüggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century. But this beautifully recorded new version is certainly up there with the best, its attractions enhanced by the generous coupling – an eager, swaggering performance of one of Mozart’s earliest teenage serenades that makes the rival Philips version from the ASMF seem distinctly decorous by comparison. Richard Wigmore