Jaap ter Linden

Mozart: The Great Symphonies, Vol. 1

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Even for fans of period instruments, the sound of the Mozart-Ensemble Amsterdam in this three-disc set of Mozart's earlier symphonies might take some getting used to. Let's start with the instantly noticeable horns. It's true that most of the time they're in tune, but it's also true that much of the time their tone is too tightly squeezed in their upper register and slightly overblown in the lower register. It's true that the oboes are plangent in quiet lines, but it's also true that they're weak in long lines. It's true that the violins are strong, but it's also true that they more often than not cover the violas. It has to be said that the orchestra created by director Jaap ter Linden plays very well together, that the ensemble is polished, that the rhythm is buoyant, and that the balances show the players are listening attentively to each other. And it likewise has to be said that ter Linden is a more than able conductor with a light touch, a steady tempo, and a nice way with phrasing. But these performances never go much below the surface of the music, never find the heights of the sublime in Mozart's Allegro spirituosos or the depths of humanity in his Andantino graziosos. Altogether, these are reasonably well-played performances by a perhaps too lean and possibly too odd-sounding period instrument chamber orchestra that presents well-argued but by no means inspired interpretations of 12 of Mozart's better-known earlier symphonies. Brilliant's 2002 original recording is clean and deep, but not quite warm or clear enough.

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