Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp; Symphonia concertante, K297b; Symphony No. 31 (Paris)

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Concerto for Flute and Harp; Symphonia concertante, K297b; Symphony No. 31 (Paris)
PERFORMER: Suzanne Kaiser (flute), Mara Galassi (harp); Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Gottfried von der Goltz
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901897
Three works written during Mozart’s visit to Paris in 1778 – though the authenticity of the Sinfonia concertante has never been fully confirmed. But listening to the slow movement, with its interweaving melodies, doesn’t leave much doubt in my mind that this is the real thing. Especially in a performance as strongly characterised and well thought through as this one. From the anticipatory breath before the music even begins, there’s complete unanimity of purpose in phrasing, dynamics and articulation. And the soloists still manage to convey their individual characters, especially the bright-toned flute and the humorous horn, revelling in the virtuosity of his part. There’s little competition in this version – the more usual scoring with clarinet rather than flute is well represented by Dennis Brain’s classic recording with the Philharmonia.

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The Flute and Harp Concerto is a much slighter and strangely anonymous work: this seems to affect the performers, especially in the andantino, which never flows smoothly. And the recording, which was full and well-balanced in the Sinfonia concertante, can’t quite decide how it’s going to deal with the harp, which alternately cuts through the texture, and is then submerged. And although the Paris Symphony has the bonus of both alternative slow movements, the music takes a while to settle. The subtlety that informed the Sinfonia concertante has largely evaporated: accents and dynamics are overdone, and the internal balance is never really sorted out. There are also some distracting bumps in the studio – far better to go for Mackerras and the stylish Prague CO. Martin Cotton