Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A K20; Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550; Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Virgin Virgo
WORKS: Symphony No. 29 in A K20; Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550; Eine kleine Nachtmusik
PERFORMER: Northern Sinfonia/Heinrich Schiff
Heinrich Schiff clearly likes his Mozart bracing. This well-filled disc includes plenty of repeats but leaves no time for sentiment; the approach, in fact, resembles the now superseded period-instrument performances of yesteryear. The small orchestra is all of a piece with this modernist attitude to Mozart. One thing we know about Mozart is that he valued chiaro e scuro. This approach allows only for the chiaro. Much of it is acceptable; the early symphony’s elegance is not banished even in a swiftish slow movement, and if Eine kleine Nachtmusik is a little unrelenting, its dance-like character is perhaps an excuse. The spine momentarily tingles at the opening of the G minor; the viola whisper is sharply etched, the tempo abrasive and challenging (the version with clarinets is used, although the austere alternative might have suited this style). Mozart planned a real contrast in his slow movement but instead the gracious demisemiquaver figure sounds amiably flippant; about as searching as the similar motif in Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.


The failure to touch the heart or even the mind with this, of all movements, casts a shadow over the whole. At a second hearing one notices a rigidity of phrasing needless even in faster music. Julian Rushton