Leonard Bernstein / Wiener Philharmoniker

Mozart: The Late Symphonies; Symphonies Nos. 25 & 29

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Mozart: The Late Symphonies; Symphonies Nos. 25 & 29 Review

by Patsy Morita

Here's a set of the best of Mozart's symphonies performed by the well-respected Vienna Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. These are reissues of recordings made in the 1980s, and although half were done in the studio and half were live, there is really no significant difference in sound. The performances range from respectable to dynamic and for the most part, Bernstein conducts them all at fairly quick versions of their tempo markings. Even Andantes are taken at a brisk, arm-swinging pace rather than a postprandial strolling pace. Bernstein leans toward a strict Classical interpretation, so that rather than add any extra Romantic drama to the symphonies, the barest minimum of drama is used. Symphonies No. 25, No. 29, and No. 39 are done cleanly, but lack a brightness that would make these performances more than just everyday business as usual for such skilled musicians. For example, the Symphony No. 39 has an opening and a finale that could be crisper, and an Andante and a Minuet that lack forcefulness. The Symphony No. 38 "Prague" and the "Jupiter" No. 41 are better and have a little more liveliness. The remainder, No. 35, No. 36, and No. 40, do have an extra spark to them, which makes them much more animated and a delight to hear. All in all, though, this isn't a bad way to get the best of Mozart's symphonies at a budget price.

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