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COMPOSERS: Mozart/Webern
WORKS: Symphony No 35; Symphony No. 36; Symphony No. 37; Symphony No. 38; Symphony No. 39; Symphony No. 40; Symphony No.41; Works for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi
The Cleveland Orchestra has never sounded more magnificent, even under its great conductor George Szell. Dohnányi has combined the last six Mozart symphonies, in performances of matchless brilliance, with a selection of works by Anton von Webern. If this idea sounds very odd, the result is not only successful but very moving. Placed after the Linz Symphony, the Webern Passacaglia Op. 1 comes as a 20th-century revelation.


In the Mozart we are given almost all the repeats (including the da capos of the minuets) except, curiously, for the slow movement in the G minor (recorded in its revised version, with clarinets). The beginning of the E flat is given not with the extravagant double dotting employed by Christopher Hogwood, but with the plain dotting now thought to be authentic. Altogether, Dohnányi has gone to immense pains to get the texts of his Mozart correct, for example in the Haffner (of which the only correct modern scores are those of Faber Music and Bärenreiter – the others have a hideous number of wrong notes).


One odd thing I must remark on: the Jupiter, considered by Webern to be Mozart’s most important contribution to the symphonic form, has never sounded more glacial than here, its trumpeting and drumming almost a caricature of pompous C major – except for the slow movement which, on the contrary, has never sounded with such infinite sadness. These are in any case extraordinary performances of Mozart’s greatest symphonies which, in their totality, seem to be unrivalled. HCRobbins Landon