John Eliot Gardiner

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 39 & 41

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Anyone who has followed the career of John Eliot Gardiner knows that he is one of the world's leading authorities on authentic performance practices, and that his approach to Baroque and Classical music involves using original instruments, choosing the proper size of ensemble, and playing the music in the style of the time period. In the case of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K. 543, and the Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, "Jupiter," Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, a chamber-size orchestra, meet all expectations. Rhythms are crisp and precise, the strings play with minimal vibrato and have a lustrous aural sheen, the winds and brass have the distinctive colors of pre-modern instruments, and the sound of the ensemble is close and intimate. In terms of his tempos, Gardiner is fairly close to accepted mainstream speeds, so the music doesn't seem especially brisk, but at no point is the pacing excessvely slow. The fastest tempo is taken in the Finale of the "Jupiter," which warrants it for the sake of building excitement in Mozart's multi-subject fugue. These live performances have remarkably noise-free reproduction, and the timbres of the orchestra are vibrant and alive, despite the sound-absorbing properties of an audience.

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