By calling this series Mozart-- Essential Symphonies, Roger Norrington is clearly going to have to make choices about which is and which isn't an essential Mozart symphony. And by grouping the chosen works into carefully selected but always surprising programs, Norrington is likewise determined to make sure nothing can be taken for granted. Thus on this first of six volumes, Norrington has started with Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, ended with Symphony No. 41 in C major, and placed Symphony 25 in G minor in the middle, thereby giving three portraits of Mozart, one as a child, one as a youth, and one as a mature man.
Leading the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, Norrington turns in light, bright, direct, and powerful interpretations of these familiar works. Though a modern instrument orchestra, the Stuttgart players perform with the alert and energetic ensemble of the best period instrument groups, but their modern instruments give them a wider palette and a greater strength. Norrington, a canny period instrument conductor, takes advantage of these qualities and produces performances that are flexible, expressive, and often quite grand. Recorded live at the 2006 Europäisches Musikfest Stuttgart, Hänssler's digital sound has a huge dynamic range and a wonderful amount of instrumental detail, though some occasional audience noise, too.