Serenade in C minor, K.338
Ensemble Marsyas/Peter Whelan
Linn CKD 654 (Digital Only) 21:16 mins
C minor was not a key that Mozart used that often, and he generally reserved it for heavyweight works. The title Serenade implies something much lighter, but the uncompromising opening immediately tells us that this is serious stuff, and the colour of the period instruments gives the texture a bite. Helped by a wide dynamic range, and scrupulous attention to detail and balance, the symphonic scale of the first movement is comprehensively presented, but still with the dance-like passages reflecting that this is, after all, an allegro.
The sound is more blended in the short Andante, where the longer lines attract smoother phrasing, and the dynamic contrasts are less abrupt. But the Minuet returns to incisiveness in the outer sections, with some especially telling horn playing – the stopped notes really add a buzz to the music – and you can feel Mozart reaching beyond the Minuet to a more Beethovenian Scherzo.
In the finale, a set of variations, each section is characterised in timbre, tempo and dynamics, and the discrete addition of a double bass to the ensemble gives added weight where it is needed, but is never intrusive. All brightly and naturally recorded, this is chamber music-making at its best.