Sylvain Cambreling

Mozart: Sinfonien Nos. 33, 35 "Haffner" & 38 "Prager"

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The productions of the new Glor label, based near Munich, have a surface similarity, with well-drilled German musicians producing a warm tone in sonically rich surroundings. That surface creates an odd sort of dissonance with the overall performance style of this release by the Southwestern German Radio Symphony Orchestra. The conductor, French-born Sylvain Cambreling, has mostly specialized in music of the early twentieth century: Stravinsky, Messiaen, Debussy. His Mozart is of a sort one sometimes hears from conductors of contemporary music who are attracted by the seeming clockwork perfection of Mozart's music and decide to venture into the repertory: it is dry to the point of being inexpressive, precise, texturally transparent, and impressively detailed. Sample either of the minuets of the Symphony No. 33 in B flat major, K. 319, or the Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385 ("Haffner"): they sound a bit like Stravinsky's neo-classical dances. The outer movements aren't what you'd call pulse-pounding, and in the Symphony No. 35, despite the booklet's citation of Mozart's instruction to play the finale "as fast as possible," Cambreling holds the speed down to a brisk Allegro. On the other hand, the inner voices and the wind parts reveal many subtleties that get lost even in small-band historical-instrument readings. This is especially noteworthy in view of the large size of the orchestra Cambreling is conducting; bringing the strings down to the level where the winds and timpani take the spotlight and maintaining a perfectly smooth tone represents quite a challenge. The three symphonies were recorded in different halls, and each one reveals a slightly different facet of the orchestra, carefully polished for the presentation at hand. In all, this is a recording that runs counter to type and is of the kind that may appeal to or dismay listeners in equal numbers. Booklet text, by an unidentified author, is in German and in an English that identifies that B flat symphony as being in B major.

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