Friedemann Eichhorn / Uwe Grodd / Roland Krüger / Martin Rummel

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 38-40 (arranged by Hummel)

(CD - Naxos #8572841)

Review by

These arrangements of three of Mozart's famous symphonies were made in 1823 and 1824, when Johann Nepomuk Hummel was kapellmeister at the Weimar court. But he could probably have executed them at any time during his career: Hummel was Mozart's star student, and he had these works in his head like few others of his era. The "flute, violin, cello, and piano" designation used on this album doesn't quite give the flavor: the ensemble is of the type represented in Haydn's folk song arrangements, with the piano carrying the bulk of the melodic load and the flute and strings filling out loud passages or providing antiphonal effects. This said, reducing a mature Mozart symphony to these dimensions is no mean feat, and there are plenty of clever touches in, say, the contrapuntal textures of the main thematic group of the first movement of the Symphony No. 40, where the piano has to do the passagework and be transitioned into it. The arrangements also give insight into certain details of ornamentation and dynamics in Mozart's time, outlined in the booklet notes by flutist Uwe Grodd. The quartet of Austrian and German musicians, playing conventional instruments, control the balances well and give an enthusiastic performance that avoids the dull domesticity that can infect this kind of project, and the strong engineering from Vienna's Weinberg Castle is a plus. Recommended for anyone who likes Hummel or the history of Mozart reception.

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