W.A. Mozart: Symphonies Vol. 4
22 February 2010
Volume 4 of Fischer's new surround sound Mozart series takes us into the depths of the composer's sojourns to Italy in 1771. Here he was exposed to much music, notably the opera in Turin, Milan, Naples, Mantua, and Cremona. Each of these had a different-sized orchestra, but one thing seemed to be common to them all: the centralization of the bass sound across the orchestra, and a decidedly bass-heavy philosophy, with that instrument (according to the notes) sometimes outnumbering the cellos 4 to 1! This indeed must have been an extraordinary sound, and perhaps the next time my kids turn on my stereo with the bass turned all the way up they can appeal to historical circumstances. ("But Dad, Mozart did it...")
Adam Fischer is not proposing this solution to us on this disc, but it does make for some interesting commentary: just how different were the orchestras in Mozart's time, and how did they affect his writing? We know that the Italian orchestras were much larger than what he was used to in Salzburg-did it matter? For the most part these early symphonies, at least the ones here and a few other related, remind me of the "Paris" symphony, and we know that it was written for a very large ensemble. These have the same sort of let-it-all-go and play-to-the-rafters sound and style. And the basses-Mozart did not allow his cellos and basses independent lines as Haydn would do; no, instead a "bass" part for Mozart was a true bass line underlining the entire orchestra. This in part may be what gives so many of his works that foundational sense of strength and allows the upper elements freer more virtuosic range. But this is only a supposition. Yet it is easy to hear in these delightful works that the Danes so gloriously project to the stars. While the interpretation is in no way remotely skirting the edges of established propriety-the period crowd in particular would take most of the menuets at a faster tempo, while Fischer's are more stately-at the same time they are wonderfully ebullient and attention-grabbing.
The sound of course is still fairly resonant-as I have said before, after his Nimbus Haydn series (Ambisonic), which sounds like all of their recordings seem to do, I expected something different in this Mozart from another company, but they still sound quite lively, meaning this must be something the conductor wants. It sounds fine here, and the playing is quite stirring.
When this is done we should have a modern sound competitor to the Krips on Phillips-time will tell.