Monday, July 26, 2010

Mozart, Leopold - Symphonies - Gaigg, L'Orfeo

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Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) was so obviously overshadowed by his son that a person hardly recognizes anything by the father anymore, save the occasional recording of the "Toy Symphony. The Toy Symphony (full title: Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys) is a musical work with parts for toy instruments and is popularly played at Christmas. " This disc aims to remedy that situation a bit by offering up four of the elder Mozart's symphonic compositions other than the "Toy Symphony." The result shows us a far less-stern taskmaster than the grim-faced character we all met in the movie "Amadeus."

Apparently writing whenever he could to support his family, Leopold Mozart indulged himself often in the then-emerging popular style of "program music." Such music was not always considered by proper Vienna musical circles to be of the highest caliber, but its simplicity appealed to the masses, and Mozart found much favor with it.

The Sinfonia di cassia cassia "Hunting Symphony" brings with it a range of hunting calls, barking dogs, and simulated gunshots. The Peasant Wedding uses a hurdy-gurdy, a bagpipe whose ancient origin was probably in Mesopotamia from which it was carried east and west by Celtic migrations. It was used in ancient Greece and Rome and has been long known in India. , and various vocal yelps from the musicians to recreate a riotous wedding scene. The Sinfonia burlesca presents four pieces based on representative eighteenth-century comedic types. And the New Lambach Symphony describes a journey through Western Europe. The designation New distinguishes the work from the Lambach Symphony written by Mozart's ten-year-old son the year before. All four works display a mature if simple technique, with the Lambach being the more serious of the lot and the others somewhat frivolous fun. Michi Gaigg's baroque-instrument orchestra has a good time with them.

CPO's sound is quite good, too, not only natural in its tonal balance but conveying an excellent sense of orchestral depth. Unlike many recordings that are so close up or multi-miked as to seem flat and lifeless, this recording actually has a listener believing that an orchestra is sitting in front of him. Although the L'Orfeo Barockorchester has only about twenty-eight period-instrument players in its company, they do sound quite lifelike in tone and position.

I don't believe that anyone finding this music at all intriguing will be disappointed by the selection of short symphonies on the disc, their performances, or the quality of the audio.

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