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Mozart: Symphonies Nos 39-41

Ensemble Appassionato/Mathieu Herzog (Naïve)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Mozart Symphonies Nos 39-41
Ensemble Appassionato/Mathieu Herzog
Naïve V 5457   83:29 mins (2 discs)

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Ensemble Appassionato is an orchestra of some 40-plus of the best French players founded by the conductor, violist, composer and arranger Mathieu Herzog to offer ‘a new, elegant and accessible vision of the great orchestral masterpieces’. They certainly play with precision and verve, with a nod towards period practice in their approach to Mozart, but also with an implication that ‘Mozart’s music must be completely alive and continue to evolve with us’.

In fact, their approach to the first two movements of the E flat Symphony is relatively traditional: a weighty introduction and gracefully phrased Allegro, and an Andante with a subtle flexibility of tempo. But then the Menuetto is suddenly fast and fierce; a treatment Herzog applies to the Minuets of both the other symphonies – presumably to invoke the pre-echoes of Beethoven he refers to in his booklet note. But that hardly accounts for the slowish, strangely subdued launch of the G minor Symphony, nor for leaving out the repeat of the first half of its sublime slow movement – rather finely played here. As for the Jupiter: the peremptory pace with which its opening movement is dispatched must make it about the fastest on record, just as the romantically languid tempo for the Andante – in which Herzog does include the first half repeat – must be among the slowest. And the wondrous finale is scrambled through so hastily that many of its contrapuntal ingenuities go for nothing. All very stimulating, no doubt – but difficult to discern precisely to what end.

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Bayan Northcott