Kevin Mallon / Toronto Chamber Orchestra

Leopold Mozart: Toy Symphony

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Leopold Mozart is almost always either represented by the Toy Symphony recorded here, which may not even be authentically his work, or mentioned in connection with his famous son. This Naxos release is one of the few exclusively devoted to Leopold's music. As such, it's something of a revelation. The music here was composed in the 1750s and 1760s: mostly or entirely after the birth of Wolfgang. An indicator of its high quality is that several of them have in the past been attributed to the younger Mozart. Given that Wolfgang was indeed alive and working when these works were composed, some of the similarities may have resulted from an unusual situation in which the father was influenced by his child son. The slightly melancholy tone in the opening Allegro of the Sinfonia in G major, Eisen G8 (track 1), for example, is distinctively Mozartian, no matter which Mozart you're talking about. But in other works there is little possibility of Wolfgang's influence, and all kinds of evidence of Leopold's having been a greater presence in his son's creative development than is generally supposed. Consider the spacious and well worked out sonata form of the opening movement of the Sinfonia in G major, "Neue Lambacher Sinfonie" (track 14), which little resembles the brisk, concise Viennese symphonies by the likes of Wagenseil that were being composed at the same time. Leopold was a flexible formal thinker; the two outer symphonies on the disc each have four movements, which was far from standard at the time, but he had also mastered the Italianate three-movement sinfonia form. The performances by the Toronto Chamber Orchestra under Kevin Mallon show the music in its best light, with the Toy Symphony (here labeled with its full German name of Berchtesgadener Musik Kindersinfonie) done in an understated way that minimizes the work's gimmicky qualities and links it to other programmatic works of the time. Certainly worth hearing as an hour of pleasant, early Classic-period music for anyone curious about Mozart's father, this disc is worth hearing again for how it bears on the question of just where his genius came from.

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