Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 38 'Prague' & 39

Neville Marriner

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Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 38 'Prague' & 39 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Partisans of early music performance may dispute the finer points of his interpretations or his use of modern instruments, but most would agree that Neville Marriner deserves a special place of honor among Mozart conductors, and that his popular discs have gone far in promoting the cause of authentic period practice. These performances of Mozart's Symphony No. 38 in D major, "Prague," and the Symphony No. 39 in E flat major are wholly satisfying readings, accurate in all details and idiomatic in style, and the light-bodied tone and transparent textures of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields are nearly ideal. Marriner's Mozart may not be as warm as Walter's or Böhm's, and it may not be as scintillating as Hogwood's or Gardiner's, but it seems to blend some of the virtues of both the traditionalist and authenticist camps: the pacing in the Andante movements is easygoing, even gemütlich, but never sluggish; and the brisk Allegros are as spry and energetic as any could wish. Add to this Marriner's intellectual clarity, emotional balance, and sincere musicality, and the tasteful results should please all but the pickiest critics. The sound of the original 1984 recordings is surprisingly good and has not been remastered for this 2004 budget reissue.

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