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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, July 2011

How can anyone put the knock on Mozart, especially in something so familiar and so deservedly popular as his Serenade No. 13 in G major, K. 525, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), no matter what the orchestra or record company? But when the performance and sound come up as felicitously as these do, and at so low a price, there’s nothing to do but sing the disc’s praises.

Petter Sundkvist and his Swedish Chamber Orchestra give us a lovely, relaxed interpretation of Nachtmusik that makes a thankful contrast to many of the more hard-driven readings we’ve had in the last couple of decades, especially from the period-instruments crowd. The opening Allegro sets a proper tone by not trying to catch our attention as an overture might; and it’s followed by the loveliest of Romances, tender and tranquil without ever being overly brooding, sentimental, or cloying. The Minuetto is sprightly, and the Finale is energetic. What more could we want from this string piece? Well, to answer my own question, perhaps Sundkvist could have used a touch more sparkle or wit, in the manner of Willi Boskovsky and the Vienna Mozart Ensemble on Decca, which is still my touchstone for this work. But Boskovsky, while more incisive, is less easygoing, and, frankly, Sundkvist’s casual charm goes a long way with me.

Of the two accompanying works, I thought the Serenade No. 6 in D major, K. 239, Serenata notturna, a bit too bass heavy in the timpani to do full justice to the work’s allures; but except for some equally heavy and somewhat clouded horns in the hunting sections of the Divertimento No. 10 in F major, K. 247, Lodron Night Music, this final piece comes off almost as well as the Nachtmusik.

The sound the Naxos engineers provide is as good as anything you’ll find at the price. It spreads out nicely across the front speakers, provides decent definition everywhere but in the aforementioned timpani and horns, and exhibits a remarkably realistic resonant glow, a hint of reverberation that gives the performances a most realistic feel. In all, this album is a hands-down easy recommendation.

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