There are three crucial differences between Claudio Abbado's 1991 recording of three Mozart symphonies with the Berliner Philharmoniker and this 2008 recording of five Mozart symphonies with the Orchestra Mozart. The first and most obvious is between the two orchestras. The Berliner Philharmoniker, of course, is one of the world's great modern instrument orchestras, while the Orchestra Mozart is a newly founded period instrument orchestra and the difference in sound between the two is enormous. Where the Berlin-based musicians sound is big, bright, and virtuosic, the Italy-based musicians sound is smaller, warmer, and, though superbly trained and very enthusiastic, hardly in the same league as the Berlin players.
The second and almost as obvious is between the two scores used in the performances. Where Abbado used the then-standard editions of the works in his 1991 recording, he 2008 he uses the New Bärenreiter Urtext Edition, which makes small but telling changes in hundreds of details of articulation, dynamics, and even pitches. Though the changes do not alter the music's substance, they do subtly alter their tone and color. The third and biggest difference, however, is in the quality of Abbado's conducting. In 1991, the Italian maestro was at the peak of his powers, and his interpretations were sharp-edged and powerful. By 2008, however, Abbado had survived cancer and a tumultuous personal life, and his interpretations here are more nuanced, more affectionate, and much more profound. Abbado has reconsidered everything in the scores from dynamic markings to tempo relationships, and his conducting here finds depths in the music his 1991 recordings missed. Captured in crisp but slightly distant live digital sound by Deutsche Grammophon, these recordings deserve to be heard by anyone interested in the conductor or the composer.