Friday, May 11, 2012

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphonies 35 and 38 and the Salzburg Symphonies

In 1990, when classical music was first being discovered by this blogger, one of the first recordings obtained was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Linz (or 36th) symphony and, within moments of listening to the theme of the first movement, it was extremely easy, as it has for many millions of people, to appreciate and enjoy the true genius of the composer.

Mozart (1756-1791), a child prodigy as a performer and composer, composed voluminously and with amazing creativity and was immensely popular.  Over 600 works were produced in about a quarter century and he was only 35 when he died--who knows how many more compositions, including masterpieces, he would have produced if he had lived as long as one of his mentors, Franz Josef Haydn?

He also composed extremely rapidly and completed his final trio of symphonies in only a month and a half.  His greatest work came in the final decade of his life, during which time, not coincidentally, he worked closely with the great Haydn, who, in turn, learned much from his much younger compatriot.

There is so much to discover and appreciate in the mountains of music, most of it of extremely high quality and so memorable, produced by the remarkable Mozart.  A nice collection of two of his most famous symphonies, the 35th (Haffner, from 1782) and the 38th (Prague, from 1786), as well as the so-called Salzburg symphonies, which are divertimenti or lighter music that run about half the length of the "mature" symphonies, can be found on a release by the German budget label, Pilz.

As a rank amateur, this blogger lacks the discernment to distinguish between good, excellent or superior playing in the way that a professional musician or a well-schooled aficionado can, so the Pilz disc may or may not meet the criteria called for by the latter, but for moi it works just fine.

The two symphonies on the first disc are performed by the Mozart Festival Orchestra, while, on disc 2, the Salzburg pieces are by a German orchestra called the Süddeutsche Philharmonie along with a thirteen minute Serenata Notturna by the Münchner Symphoniker that functioned more like a suite than a symphony and was "light music" that was performed in the evenings in outdoor settings, hence the name. 

Yet, even though the Salzburg "symphonies" and the serenades were usually thought of as ephemeral and not as important as "major" works like symphonies, concertos, sonatas and other more formally performed works, Mozart's skills with memorable melodies and unusual orchestration have made these pieces as timeless as the others.

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