Mozart: Divertimento in B flat, KAnh227; Divertimento in E flat, K252; Divertimento in F, K253; Serenade in C minor, K388

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Divertimento in B flat, KAnh227; Divertimento in E flat, K252; Divertimento in F, K253; Serenade in C minor, K388
PERFORMER: Oslo Philharmonic Wind Soloists
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555943
Where most groups couple K388 – surely the most unserenade-like serenade ever written – with the

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E flat serenade, K375, the Oslo players contrast it with three cheerful little divertimenti for wind sextet or octet. The B flat, which may not be by Mozart at all, is jolly enough, if hardly memorable. But the two indisputably authentic early divertimenti, K252 and K253, show the care and craftsmanship Mozart lavished even on trifles for the Salzburg Archbishop’s dinner entertainment. And amid the racy tunes and catchy dance rhythms – K252 even includes one of the composer’s rare polonaises – there are countless Mozartian subtleties of part-writing and chromatic harmony. The performances here are first-rate, with an ideal balance between refinement and earthy enjoyment. Phrasing is vital and alluring (a particularly graceful oboe solo in the siciliano that opens K252); and the players obviously relish the lusty contredanse finales and such moments as the yodelling high horns in the minuet of K252. In the great C minor Serenade the Oslo soloists stand up well against some stiff competition. Other performances, including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Alexander Schneider, have brought more drama and urgency to the first movement. But there is much to savour here, whether in the beautifully moulded Andante (with more alluring playing from the exceptional first oboe), the gliding mirror canon of the trio – one of the most dulcet performances on disc – or the vivid characterisation of the finale’s variations. Rarely has the E flat variation sounded so magical (the clarinets truly dolce here). And throughout you’ll notice the care the Oslo players give to the shaping of accompanying figures. Forced at knifepoint to choose a single version of K388 I’d still go, just, for the COE. But this new disc would be desirable even if it were at full-price. At a fiver it’s a true bargain. Richard Wigmore