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Mozart: Symphonies Nos 39-41 (Minasi)

Ensemble Resonanz/Riccardo Minasi (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Symphony No. 39, K. 543; Symphony No. 40, K. 550; Symphony No. 41, K. 551
Ensemble Resonanz/Riccardo Minasi
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902629.30   106:28 mins (2 discs)

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Reactions to these expertly crafted, often ear-tweaking, mellifluously engineered performances will depend very much on how you ‘hear’ this music in your inner mind. If, for example, you feel the 39th Symphony’s Andante con moto embraces some of Mozart’s most exquisite moments of woodwind scoring and harmonic incandescence, you might wish for it to be shaped more beguilingly. Equally, those who consider Mozart’s meticulous phrasing is best characterised with the subtlest, tiniest inflections of articulation and tempo might find Riccardo Minasi’s occasional gentle pull on the reins too much of a good thing in the same symphony’s Menuetto and Finale.  The latter’s culmination finds the woodwind virtually stuttering over their entries before a sudden tempo injection at the end. These are the sorts of things that, experienced live, would no doubt create an impression of spontaneous enchantment, yet repeated playings might well prove distracting.

Minasi keeps the opening movement of K550 commendably free-flowing and rhythmically buoyant – indeed all seems to be going well until the pulsating chromatic inflections of the central development grind virtually to a halt shortly before the recapitulation. The Menuetto’s liquidity of tempo becomes such that the music isn’t really allowed to settle, although the finale surges along (virtually unimpeded) with real fire in its belly. Finest of all is a performance of the Jupiter that in the outer movements clarifies textures and points phrases in a way that is truly exhilarating, although I’m not sure about the clipped, staccato delivery of the interjecting chords that characterise the opening bars (and elsewhere) of the Andante cantabile.

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Julian Haylock