Mozart: Posthorn Serenade - Willens
Classical - Orchestral
Mozart: Serenade No. 9 in D major, K 320 (Posthorn Serenade), Two Marches in D major, K 335, Serenade No. 13 in G major, K 525 (Eine kleine Nachtmusik), Minuet from String Quartet in G major, K 80
Die Kölner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)
Die Kölner Akademie and Michael Willens have previously recorded Mozart’s complete piano concertos with Ronald Brautigam, earning praise for their fresh and colourful contributions to the series. The team now releases the first of four projected discs with further Mozart scores, beginning with two of the composer’s best-loved serenades. Serenades were a characteristic feature of Salzburg musical life: opening with a march and continuing with as many as eight or nine separate movements on an orchestral scale, such works will have been ringing in Mozart’s ears from childhood. Thirteen serenades of varying scope and scorings are included in Mozart’s catalogue of works, and of these the well-known ‘Posthorn Serenade’ is the ninth. It is also the last serenade that Mozart composed before leaving Salzburg for Vienna. The nickname stems from Mozart’s inclusion of a solo for post horn (‘cornodi posta’) in one of the movements, but the wind instruments play an important role throughout the serenade, with extended solos for flute and oboe.
In comparison, Eine kleine Nachtmusik – the last serenade Mozart wrote – is for strings only. It is also shorter than many of the other serenades, and was probably intended for a more intimate occasion. Mozart’s own thematic catalogue lists it as having five movements, but as the first minuet and trio (preceding the slow movement) have been lost, only four are typically performed today. In this recording a minuet from Mozart’s very first string quartet in G major, K. 80, is incorporated by way of completion of the five-movement arch.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 28, 2017
Good to see Michael Alexander Willens and his period band come back to the BIS catalogue with “the first of four projected discs with further Mozart scores, beginning with two of the composer’s best-loved serenades”.
There are two things very special about this one:
Firstly, going back in time, we note that over the years and with some exceptions, the members of the Koelner Akademie have changed considerably. Of course, members come and go. And in the ‘period domain’ there is nothing unusual about borrowing musicians for having the required complement for a performance. Besides, many musicians earn their living in different orchestras. But what is special, is that over said period of time orchestral practice and ditto sound of the Koelner Akademie has consistently remained the same in transparency, precision and perfect balancing, as though nothing has changed.
As for the second point, the recording technique: Although BIS admittedly record in 24/96 PCM format before converting the end result into DSD, the quality is invariably such that it matches more than often that of so called ‘pure’ DSD. I don’t know what their secret is, but it does work.
These two remarkable phenomena can, beyond any shade of doubt, only be attributed to the expertise of the conductor, Michael Alexander Willens, and the sound engineer, Thore Brinkmann, and certainly so with this recent release, recorded at the Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal in Cologne, Germany.
The choice of these two serenades is an interesting, and in so far as it pertains to the over familiar ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’, a courageous one. There are already 'much too many' Little Night Music in the catalogue, and some fine performances at that, though none of them having been reviewed on this site. But, clever as I must assume they are, BIS’ chairman, Robert von Bahr and Maestro Willens have come up with the brilliant idea to replace the missing (second) movement with a minuet from Mozart’s first string quartet in G major only few will be familiar with! As for the ‘Posthorn’ serenade, there is hardly any financially affordable Hi-res competition, so this one fills a much regretted gap.
So, what else is there to say? That both (plus the March K335) are well played? I take it that this is by now self-evident, as may be the fact that we can confidently look forward to the three remaining Mozart discs in this projected series.
All that remains is to strongly advise collectors and other Mozart lovers to jump at this exquisite opportunity to enrich your music cabinet with this release and the ones to follow (the next one being Mozart’s Masonic Music to be released towards the end of 2017).
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