LABELS: English Chamber Orchestra
WORKS: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K297b; Oboe Concerto in C, K314; Bassoon Concerto in B flat, K191; Horn Concerto No. 4 in E flat, K495
PERFORMER: John Anderson (oboe), Anthony Pike (clarinet), Julie Price (bassoon), John Thurgood, Richard Berry (horn); ECO/Ralf Gothóni
CATALOGUE NO: ECO 40-02
In the Sixties and Seventies, the ECO in Mozart seemed a paragon of clarity and point. In today’s brave new authentic world, though, it tends to sound slightly too comfortable and well-upholstered. That said, there is quite a lot to enjoy in this 40th anniversary offering featuring a clutch of the orchestra’s principals. Best are the Oboe Concerto, a spruce, elegant performance, longer on lyricism than puckishness, and the Horn Concerto, refined, thoughtfully shaded and – in the finale – less gamesome than usual. In the Bassoon Concerto smoothness can equal blandness – the bassoon’s role as the orchestra’s clown can be exaggerated, but in the outer movements I missed a crucial sense of fun and irreverence. The dubious wind Concertante – an inflated 19th-century concoction based at most on ideas by Mozart – comes over well enough, with nimble, shapely contributions from oboe and clarinet. But why only a measly 83 minutes of music teased over two discs?
No complaints about the playing time on the EMI reissue. In the Flute and Harp Concerto Marie-Pierre Langlamet is a tad reticent – not just a question of recorded balance; and agile though the soloists are, Abbado’s tempo for the gavotte finale sounds slightly hard-driven. Both here and in the Flute Concerto Emmanuel Pahud is a classy soloist, cooler, less luscious of tone than, say, James Galway, but phrasing with grace and a touch of fantasy. Playing on a basset clarinet (with its additional, oily notes), Sabine Meyer gives an equally vivid performance of the Clarinet Concerto, more urgent and restless, less nostalgically autumnal than most. If I still, just, prefer the recent live recording by her brother Wolfgang, it’s partly because of the sheer inventiveness of his phrasing, partly because Harnoncourt and his period forces get that much more colour and character into the accompaniments. Richard Wigmore