Mozart: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran Partita); Serenade in E flat, K375

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Serenades
WORKS: Serenade in B flat, K361 (Gran Partita); Serenade in E flat, K375
PERFORMER: Berlin Philharmonic Wind Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 343 4242
Mozart’s great wind serenades are well served on CD, with particularly fine performances of the grandest of them all, the so-called Gran Partita, K361. Previously this has been recorded by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe soloists, both unconducted (Teldec) and under Alexander Schneider (ASV), as well as by Philippe Herreweghe and the period-instrument wind-band of the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées (recently reissued by Harmonia Mundi). This new version from the Berlin Philharmonic wind players is perhaps the most impressive yet, equally capturing both the music’s irrepressible high spirits and its sensuousness: is there a more

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heart-stopping moment in all Mozart than the penultimate movement’s Adagio variation, with its rapturous oboe melody unfolding to the mellow murmur of clarinets and their lower-pitched cousins known as basset horns? The expressive heart of the work is its slow third movement – an operatic trio for oboe, clarinet and basset horn, to a pulsating accompaniment that scarcely lets up for an instant. Here, the Berlin players, taking the tempo a touch slower than any of the above-mentioned versions (which makes the piece harder to play), allow the music all its due breadth and expressive flexibility.

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No less impressive is the octet Serenade, K375, in Mozart’s characteristic E flat major vein, whose solemn opening chords seem to have been remembered from the famous Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola. In both works, gaps between minuets and their trios are sometimes longer than they need be, but that’s a small price to pay for such polished performances. The recorded sound is warm and spacious. Misha Donat