Symphonies Nos 38 & 39
NDR Radiophilharmonie/Andrew Manze
Pentatone PTC 5186 765 71:21 mins
Following the success of his recordings of Mozart’s last two symphonies with his German orchestra, Andrew Manze now brings us the preceding pair. His background as a violinist and proponent of historically informed performance comes through in his conducting, and the start of the Prague Symphony, even though played on modern instruments, rejoices in its clarity and colour. Vibrato is minimal, rhythms tight and the music has a momentum which leads naturally into the Allegro – energetic and spirited, but subtle in its dynamic shaping and detail. Manze takes all the repeats, as he does throughout, making this a big movement. Flow in the Andante and perkiness in the Presto are both enhanced by precise phrasing and articulation, and there is some lovely playing and chording from the wind section.
The weight and balance of the opening chords in the 39th Symphony are very satisfying, and the body of the movement swings along, helped by some discreet (but delicious) portamentos in the strings in the first theme, and an unerring sense of direction in the pulse. Manze doesn’t let the Andante sag, but allows the dotted rhythms space in the main theme and gives the minor key irruptions real power and contrast. His brisk tempo for the Menuetto gives him space to relax the mood for the Ländler-like trio, and the finale scampers along with light feet and a sense of humour, again tempered by the turns to the minor. This is up there with the best played, and the best recorded.