The Well-Tempered Music Guy

Simple thoughts by a simple listener on classical music

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gardiner and Mozart Part II

I managed to make it back up to Lincoln Center last night to see the second concert in Gardiner's Mozart tour, featuring the last three symphonies. Besides some practical scheduling problems, I was also a bit hesitant because I was so unsatisfied by Gardiner's recording of these works. That recording was surprisingly slow and soupy, more so than many modern instrument performance I knew (and liked -- it was far more dull than, for example, Karl Bohm's version), and the recessed recording sound added to this problem. My favorite recording of these works remained Christopher Hogwood's, by a wide margin.

I am happy to report Gardiner's interpretation of these works has changed dramatically for the better since he made those recordings (I think in the early '80s). The performance sizzled, it was absolutely thrilling. The phrases were gorgeously and always convincingly molded. Some fun, tasteful ornamentation, particularly noticeable in the trio of No. 39, added to the sense of joyful music-making. And of course, the incredible Jupiter finale was a gas.

In fact, the entire Jupiter symphony was played with all the players standing up (except of course for those whose instruments rest on the floor: cellists, bassists, percussionist). For an encore, they played the section of Mozart's very first symphony that features the four-note motif that begins that amazing finale (a case of a "snake biting its tail?" suggested Gardiner to the audience, quoting Brahms).

Admittedly to show off, I asked Gardiner afterwards in the Green Room, "Why didn't you bring along the Choir and play the Missa Brevis, too?" (This is the other work where this motif appears.)

Gardiner replied, "Would you rather have heard that than the last three symphonies?"

I said, "Well, no."

"Well, there you go."

I also asked him if he had any plans to re-record the late Mozart symphonies, since (I dared say) his interpretation had changed so much since the first recording. To my relief, he acknowledged that yes indeed, it had changed very much. As for recording plans, he said, "ask my wife." (His wife, Isabella, is also his manager.)

I didn't feel too badly about introducing myself to Mrs. Gardiner, who was standing right there, as we (at WKCR) had been in touch with her about a potential interview with J.E. for BachFest, an interview that unfortunately did not materialize (although Jacob plans on interviewing him in England in the Fall). She is also exceedingly nice. She informed me that Symphonies 39 and 41 will be recorded live at an upcoming concert in London on February 9th, and a limited edition of 3,000 copies will be sold immediately on Gardiner's production company's website. She said she has not gotten a chance to set up the order form on the site yet, but will do so soon. So there's a real scoop for the few lucky ones that are already reading this blog. Just leave a copy for me!


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