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Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2011

It’s difficult to gauge by one CD encompassing three of his late-middle-period symphonies, particularly none of the really important ones (though fans of No. 29 may grouse at this), but if this disc is a representative sampling of the remainder of this series (this disc is listed as Vol. 8 of the complete Mozart symphonies), it doesn’t seem to me that Adam Fischer captures the full measure of Mozart as he did the full measure of Haydn’s symphonies.

Not that these performances are at all bad, mind you; they just miss the mark in capturing Mozart’s drama as well as they capture his elegance. But Fischer is scarcely alone. I know of no other conductor who has succeeded as well with Mozart as with Haydn, which I’m sure many readers will find surprising. Furtwängler and Toscanini conveyed his drama, and Furtwängler his warmth, but both had problems capturing what I call “the balance of the phrase.” Beecham got the excitement and youthful energy, but missed the pathos in some of the later symphonies. Böhm possibly comes the closest, but his tempos are anywhere from a hair to a yard too slow. Harnoncourt got the drama, wow did he get it, but again, at the expense of the lightning speed Mozart demands. Mackerras captured the elegance, and some of the drama, but his performances were too symmetrical in phrasing, overall too much the same. On balance, I prefer Trevor Pinnock in a complete set of the symphonies, but Pinnock sometimes misses elegance. All of which, I’m afraid, goes to show just how difficult Mozart’s symphonies are to conduct.

Nevertheless, the Danish Chamber Orchestra plays beautifully for Fischer, and there is nothing inherently wrong with these performances.

David Threasher
Gramophone, February 2011

The standard set in earlier instalments in this series (12/09, 1/10) is maintained, with special attention paid to viola lines (crucially important in Mozart), and the high horns let off the leash to provide joyous whoops of sound. Perhaps only the upper strings, less full-bodied here than in earlier volumes, might have benefited from an occasional retake.

The C major Symphony, K200, is a little marvel, its affirmative tone lent lustre by the presence of trumpets. The D major work, K202, again with trumpets, seems to rely more on galant sound effects than melodic inspiration but boasts moments of truly imaginative scoring.

David Hurwitz, January 2011

These performances are excellent of their type: that is, period-performance-influenced playing on modern instruments. Allegros are crisp and transparent; the winds are particularly well-balanced, and well played; the presto finale of Symphony No. 28 is extremely brilliant, with feather-light articulation from the violins at an amazingly quick tempo that somehow never turns frantic. Slow movements typically lack warmth (i.e. vibrato), making the strings sound anemic and compromising the music’s lyricism, but again, that’s the style today, historically incorrect though it may be. And unlike many authentic-instrument performances, the basic string sound isn’t raw and never strays out of tune.

What these performances lack is any vestige of personality. For all the exceptional playing, you would never know that there’s any guiding hand at the podium at all. Fischer just winds up the orchestral clock and lets it run. Certainly he deserves credit for the fine ensemble, and for his well-judged tempos—say, in the bracingly lively minuets—but the overall impression remains curiously faceless. With these symphonies, particularly No. 29, we’re approaching mature Mozart, and there’s simply more expressive potential in the music than Fischer’s somewhat generic approach realizes. In short, these performances say a lot about the prevailing high standards of execution today, and they speak volumes about what passes for correct style in music of the classical period. Do they reveal anything moving or inspired about Mozart? I’m not so sure.

The WSCL Blog, November 2010

Three of Mozart’s “middle” symphonies—Nos. 28, 29 and 30 in this fascinating series.

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