Mozart: Symphonies Nos 39 & No. 41

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LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 39 in E flat & No. 41 in C (Jupiter)
PERFORMER: English Baroque Soloists/ John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: Soli Deo Gloria SDG 711

These performances aren’t new, but they have not been widely available before. They were given at Cadogan Hall in London some five years ago, on an occasion when an enterprising venture enabled CDs of the concert to be put on sale to members of the audience at the end of the evening. Musically, the performances are first rate, with the slow introduction to Symphony No. 39 sounding grander and more solemn than it does in Charles Mackerras’s widely-admired version with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the Finale (done with both repeats) generating a tremendous sense of energy. It’s a pity, though, that Gardiner allows the flute and first clarinet to mar the elegant simplicity of Mozart’s melodic lines in the trio of the minuet by indulging in banal ornamental twiddles.
The Jupiter Symphony’s famous contrapuntal finale again has an admirable sweep to it, but Gardiner takes a surprisingly relaxed view of the opening movement, and the music’s festive atmosphere is further weakened here by the trumpets’ failure to make an impact. Even less of an impression is made by the wind instruments, which sound much too distant throughout these recordings. Despite the admirable music-making, then, the deficiencies of the recorded balance make it hard to recommend this disc when set alongside the Mackerras versions. Misha Donat