Friedemann Wezel

Mozart: Frühe Konzerte; Haydn: Frühe Sinfonien

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Here is a hardcore historical-instrument disc, with all the usual trademarks of the genre. There's a radical innovation, albeit one supported by certain sources from the period involved -- an un-notated bassoon doubles the orchestral bass lines and creates a distinctly wind-heavy sound. There's a set of actual period instruments (not modern copies) that have plenty of rough edges. There are over-detailed and poorly written booklet notes that manage to convey confusing information on one of the key points -- the director of the performances is said on the back cover to be violinist Friedemann Wezel, but the booklet, after telling you about the bassoon, says that "uniquely it is from this instrument that they are all directed." There is, to be fair, an innovative program: two very early Haydn symphonies, the Symphony A and Symphony B, also known as Nos. 107 and 108, are nicely balanced by two concertos by the teenage Mozart; all four works show the personalities of their young composers bubbling up around the edges of the Italian forms they had absorbed. But -- and here's what put many people off historical performances of Classical-period music for so long -- there are blaring natural horns, not precisely in tune, and they sometimes overwhelm the rest of the players. The effect is reasonable and even fresh in the two Haydn symphonies, which were part of a swirl of genres that included the hunting-oriented Feldparthie, but in the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 the basic thematic material in the strings tends to get pushed to the background. The bottom line is that buyers following the lead edges of historical performance may find this disc exciting and novel; casual buyers should sample it well so they know what they're getting into.

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