Niksa Bareza / Saxonian Wind Academy

Mozart: Gran Partita

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This obscure recording by the Saxonian Wind Academy was recorded in 2006 for the small Auris Subtilis label in Chemnitz, the former Karl-Marx Stadt. It's a live recording, hasn't received wide distribution, and features only the 45-minute Gran Partita for winds and contrabass, K. 361, of Mozart; listeners looking for that work can easily find it paired with other pieces by Mozart or others. To top it off, the booklet notes are in German only. And the kicker is that nobody should be discouraged by any of this, for the ensemble and conductor Niksa Bareza deliver arguably the very best recording of the Gran Partita available, at least in the old-school style that is represented by this recording. It's very much a conducted version, with numerous small shifts in tempo that would be difficult for a leaderless ensemble to pull off. That tells you what kind of recording this is: an old-fashioned German reading that sees Mozart as a forerunner of Wagner and isn't afraid to push and pull the music to bring that out. But it's done with superb sensitivity, and even if your tastes run toward a drier reading of this giant wind serenade you may find yourself won over. Sample either of the substantial minuet movements, with their dual trio sections, and enjoy the seemingly inevitable progression of the small blocks of music as they go by. The music has the lightness shared by all truly great Mozart performances. The live recording works to the musicians' advantage by calling forth a hair-trigger sense of spontaneity, and the engineering achieves full clarity. Listen to this album, and it will bring you back to what you loved about Mozart in the first place.

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