Mirijam Contzen / Reinhard Goebel

Mozart in Italien

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Chronological treatments of the early part of Mozart's career have mostly focused on his tours as a child prodigy, his eventful trip to Paris and back, and his rebel years in Salzburg. The two years he spent in Italy in his early teens, traveling and studying with counterpoint teacher Padre Martini, get overlooked. Yet this was the period in which Mozart became Mozart, in which, to use computer parlance, the "defaults" for much of his structural thinking were set in place. This superb release by veteran historical-performance conductor Reinhard Goebel and the Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic (the players here don't seem to be using historical instruments), with Japanese-Dutch violinist Mirjam Contzen, actually includes only one Mozart work, the three-movement Sinfonia from the opera Ascanio in Alba, K. 111. Each of the other pieces, however, bears on Mozart's style and often on this work in particular. Consider the big tonic-dominant blocks in the first movement of Venanzio Rauzzini's Sinfonia in D major, which seem almost to have been the inspiration for the similar but more diverse structure of Mozart's opening movement. The Sinfonia from the opera Ruggiero by Hasse, known to have appealed to Mozart greatly, could well have served as a model for Mozart's more expansive sonata forms, much more so than the Viennese symphonies of the period, and this is a work that deserves to be heard more often on its own merits. Another attractive work is the Violin Concerto in F major of Thomas Linley, a young English composer whom Mozart met traveling in Italy; he died even younger than Mozart did, and it seems likely that the two exchanged ideas. All these works attune the ear to the sparkling example of the young Mozart's music at the end, and every Mozart lover should have this disc in his/her library. Fine sound from Oehms Classics is another attraction.

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