Roger Norrington

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 40; Symphony after the "Posthorn" Serenade

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Vol. 3 of Roger Norrington's Essential Mozart Symphonies follows the established format of including one early, one middle, and one late symphony. In this case, the middle symphony is a loosely applied term as it is a three-movement work drawn from the Posthorn Serenade. The most intriguing aspects of these recordings continue to be Norrington's decisions regarding his ideas of performance practice. Through extensive research, Norrington set out to use the same number of musicians used in each work's premiere, as well as the same orchestral layout, articulation, vibrato, and musical phrasing. All of these decisions are executed with the modern-instrument-playing Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart. While the use of period performance practice on modern instruments may seem a little odd, the results are still quite favorable. The extremely small orchestra size used for the first two symphonies on the album (K. 48 and K. 320) is exceptionally clean, lucid, and precise. Norrington's interpretations are energetic and forward-moving throughout, giving renewed energy even to the symphonies' slow movements. The impact of orchestra size on the sound quality is made even more noticeable at the beginning of Symphony No. 40, which uses twice the number of strings as the Symphony K. 48. While some of the clarity and precision are lost, it is easy to see how this behemoth orchestra size (at least in his day) must have appealed to Mozart as it is able to provide so much more power, depth, and intensity to the dark, tragic Fortieth Symphony. Even listeners who think they have their "favorite Mozart symphony albums" already picked out should still give Norrington's interpretations a try.

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