Mozart: Haffner Symphony, Posthorn Serenade / Harnoncourt, Vienna Concentus Musicus

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MOZART Symphony No. 35. “Posthorn” Serenade. March No. 1 Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond; Concentus Musicus Wien SONY 88883720682 (72:06)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s way with Mozart. Among “historically informed” conductors, he directs with unusual freedom and power, never seeming constrained either lyrically or dramatically by dry theory. Indeed, a forceful sense of drama and innovative phrasing of rhythm characterizes his work with 18th- and early 19th-century music especially, whether it be the Schubert Fourth Symphony, led massively and grandly with something close to the full Berlin Philharmonic, or the “Haffner” Symphony as done here with just under 50 players from Concentus Musicus Wien.

The pieces assembled on this CD are all Salzburg related, the “Posthorn” Serenade and March in D in fact forming part of traditional university graduation ceremonies. The music would be performed in the palace courtyard of the prince-archbishop, the students marching in procession, and then the selections would be played again in the square facing the Collegiate Church, whose acoustic was perfect for the use of the posthorn (included effectively here). The “Posthorn” music, like such ceremonies, alternates between the wildly buoyant and the valedictory. The “Haffner” Symphony, prepared for Salzburg a few years later, is remarkable in that Mozart recycled it from work on an earlier serenade and didn’t recall composing a note of it! But coming upon it again, he judged it “remarkably effective,” which it certainly was and has been ever since.

Although Harnoncourt recorded this CD in 2012, at the age of 83, his performance of all the music is dashing and forceful, with all sorts of wonderful little touches, including a fine phrasing wriggle as the minuet of the symphony recycles itself. The sound, recorded in the Musikverein, is everything one could wish. These performances go to the top of my list.

FANFARE: Steven Kruger

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 88883720682

  • UPC: 888837206822

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Concentus Musicus Wien