Karl Böhm

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Symphonies 40 & 41

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Finely balanced and superbly poised accounts of Mozart's last two symphonies as they are, these 1962 Deutsche Grammophon recordings with Karl Böhm are artifacts of a past era of Mozart interpretation. Böhm was acknowledged at the time as a masterful Mozart conductor who understood the Austrian composer's unique combination of the dramatic with the lyrical, and his interpretations miss nothing of the music's greatness and humanity. The Berliner Philharmoniker was then as now a supremely virtuosic orchestra, and it plays Mozart with effortless elegance and consummate grace. Since Böhm's recordings, Mozart's symphonies have been through the historically informed performance grinder and come out the other end leaner, brighter, tighter, and altogether less monumental. For fans of the recordings of Christopher Hogwood and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Böhm's interpretations may seem hopelessly antiquated in their approach. Still, for listeners whose ears are open to the qualities of an earlier generation of Mozart conductors, these recordings will be illuminating in their control of line and form, of movement and weight. And for listeners who never ceased revering Böhm and his generation, these recordings will bring back the good old days. The added 1976 recording of Eine kleine Nachtmusik with Böhm leading the Wiener Philharmoniker, though much more charming and far less monumental, is cut from the same richly hued bolt of cloth. Deutsche Grammophon's stereo sound is so transparent yet so immediate that it's hard to know why the label switched over to digital.

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