It must be said that, for all its awe-inspiring virtuosity, astounding ensemble, and incredible tonal opulence, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Ensemble's 2006 recording of Mozart's B flat major Gran Partita and E flat major Wind Serenade lacks the three qualities essential to any great Mozart performance: grace, soul, and humanity. So while one may be truly impressed by its effortless technique, one may wish there was more elegance and less arrogance in the tone of the Gran Partita's opening Largo -- Molto allegro and more wit and less pomposity in its Finale. While one may be truly amazed by its seemingly intuitive ensemble, one may wish there was more soul and less calculation in the balances of the Partita's Adagio. And while one may be truly affected by the sumptuous tone and voluptuous blend, one may wish there was more heartfelt humanity and less sensual beauty in the Partita's Romance. The Berlin's performance in the five-movement Serenade is just as refined, just as bright, and just as empty. There have been many superlative performances of the Gran Partita over the years, including Furtwängler's profoundly soulful 1947 recording with the sweet but not sentimental Vienna Philharmonic's winds, and Karl Böhm's affectionately nuanced 1969 recording with the brilliant but not cool Berlin Philharmonic's winds, but unfortunately, while the Berlin Philharmonic's winds here are every bit as brilliant as their predecessors, they are cold, cold, cold. EMI's sound is close but still nicely in perspective.
Mozart: Serenades for Wind Ensemble Review
by James Leonard