Mozart: Flute & Harp concerto, Sinfonia Concertante - Buribayev
Lawo Classics LWC1071
Classical - Orchestral
Mozart: Flute & Harp Concerto; Sinfonia Concertante for Winds
Per Flemström, flute (Flemstrom)
Birgitte Volan Håvik, harp (Havik)
Leif Arne Pedersen, clarinet
Per Hannisdal, bassoon
Inger Besserudhage, horn
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
In 1778, Mozart spent half a year in Paris accompanied by his mother, Anna Maria. Tragedy struck in the middle of the summer, when she died of fever. Both works on this album were composed during the first weeks after their arrival in the city. In a letter to his father dated April 7, 1778, Mozart wrote that he had composed a sinfonia concertante for Mannheim musicians visiting Paris, scored for flute, oboe, horn, and bassoon. The work on this recording is considered to be a revised copy of the score, with the flute replaced by a clarinet.
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Review by John Miller - April 7, 2015
In 1778, Leopold Mozart insisted that his 22 year old son go with his mother to France, where he should introduce himself to the court at Versailles. This venture was a disaster in many ways. The travellers had to live in a sleazy hotel, so while Mozart was out being rebuffed by the French nobility (he knew very little French), his mother was marooned in a dark, cold room with little food. In the summer she became seriously ill and died on July 3, 1778.
Mozart survived in near poverty by teaching piano lessons to a few young students. Prior to his mother's death, he had begun work on a Concerto for Flute and Harp commissioned by the Count of Guines, Governor of the province of Artois, for the flautist Count to play with his harpist elder daughter. Letters by Mozart suggest that he found both flute and harp boring (although this could be one of his many "stirring" correspondences with his father).
The Concerto for Flute and Harp skilfully deals with the delicate solo instruments in accordance with their amateur players, giving them an abundance of melodic material. The concert harp, still under development, was treated more like a plucked fortepiano, but both instruments have virtuosic passages. Throughout the concerto, there is a constantly changing tonal palette; the strings are given special sonority, partly because of the use of two viola parts and the artful control of the wind instruments designed not to upstage the soloists. The outer movements play with Mozart's most gracious 'galant' style, but the slow movement, bereft of oboe and horns, goes far beyond the usual 'arioso' to a type of romance which dominated his later works. After all this work, the Count declined to pay Mozart, and he had to beg from the Housekeeper, receiving only half of the fee agreed with his master. There is no evidence that the Concerto was ever played in the household.
The autograph of Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds in E flat major, for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and orchestra, K. 297b (Anh. C 14.01) is missing. From a letter, we know that Mozart originally wrote a work for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon, and orchestra, K. Anh. 9 (279B), in Paris in April 1778. Parts found in the German Jahn Estate in 1870, were thought to be the Sinfonia Concertante Mozart wrote in Paris. However, authenticity questions have been debated throughout the 20th Century on differing instrumentation. There is considerable academic dispute about the relation of the discovered work to the assumed original work as it is performed today. The authoritative Mozart Project now considers this piece as "spurious or doubtful", and it does not appear on the project's listing of concertos. Nonetheless, musicians regard it highly and it is popular on concert platforms. On this disc, a further change is the replacement of the oboe with the clarinet. Interestingly, the Concertante also has two viola parts like the Flute and Harp Concerto.
From the very first bars, I was captivated. This is one of those discs where everything just goes right, in performance and in recording. The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra is beautifully balanced, with its winds well in evidence, suggesting that the strings might have been reduced from their full complement, a format used by many large orchestras in these days of better understanding of Classical performance practice - even the Berlin Philharmonic now routinely cuts its numbers for Mozart and Beethoven. The Oslo string sound is sweet and silky, with violins divided left and right. Everything is bright, airy and finely detailed; the orchestra is as polished and luminous as any devotee of period practice could desire. Players have evidently abandoned the old idea that classical music was played metrically; now it has been confirmed that performances should regain some of the free, creative spirit that the most accomplished Classical and Romantic musicians brought to the performance of music in their own day.
Soloists in the Concerto for Flute and Harp feature Per Flemstrøm (flute) and Birgitte Volan Håvik (harp); soloists on Sinfonia Concertante are Pavel Sokolov (oboe), Leif Arne Pedersen (clarinet), Per Hannisdal (bassoon) and Inger Besserudhagen (horn). They are all principals of their respective sections in the Oslo Philharmonic and have extensive experience in chamber music and solo work. Instead of invited soloists, the close interaction between the principals themselves and the reactions of the rest of the ensemble makes for a mature and wholly integrated reading. Conductors are Alan Buribayev (Concerto for Flute and Harp) and Arvid Engegård (Sinfonia Concertante), who certainly played their parts in these remarkable performances.
Oslo's Concert Hall, completed in 1997, is the Philharmonic's home, but its acoustics have been controversial and have required improvements. In 2000, Mariss Jansons, who brought the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra into the world arena, resigned his position after disputes with the city over the problematic acoustics of the hall. Having myself listened to Mozart in the timber-lined main Auditorium (with audience) I wasn't aware of any distinct problem. Lawo's balance, by engineers Arne Akselburg and Thomas Wolden at sessions in the empty hall, is superb, with astonishing transparency, intimate positioning of the soloists and clear disposition of the whole orchestra in realistic front-back perspective. High resolution capture displays all the subtle changes of timbre and mood in the solos in a pleasant, clean ambience. The Stereo track is excellent, but the 5.0 Multichannel has an astonishingly sharply focussed 3-D impression which effortlessly conveys Oslo's Concert Hall image into the listening room.
Lithe, polished yet spontaneous sounding interpretations combine thoughtfulness with spontaneity, and are at least on a par with my previous favourites of these Mozart pieces (Abbado with his Orchestra Mozart and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe). Recorded by Lawo Classics with winning warmth and an uncanny sense of immediacy, this disc will delight. It certainly keeps visiting my player!
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