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MOZART: March No. 1 in D Major, K. 335; Serenade in D Major, K. 320 “Posthorn”; Symphony No. 35 in D Major, “Haffner” – Concentus Musicus Wien/ Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Sony Classical, 74:00 (1/20/14) ****:

MOZART: March No. 1 in D Major, K. 335; Serenade in D Major, K. 320 “Posthorn”; Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 “Haffner” – Concentus Musicus Wien/ Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Sony Classical 88883720682, 74:00 (1/20/14) ****:

This disc (rec. 9-10 June; 1-2 December 2012) finds both composer Mozart and conductor Harnoncourt in a festive, ceremonial mood in music of farewell, what the Salzburg locals and students would call Finalmusik, announcing a leave-taking from their alma mater Salzburg University and their reigning prince-archbishop. Mozart’s music of 1779 embraces this tone of processional valediction, especially in his most expansive Posthorn Serenade. The after-effect of having heard the fine orchestras of Paris and Mannheim left their impression on Mozart, now wedded to the image of the students’ departure from Schloss Mirabell as they paid last respects to the prince-archbishop and then proceeded back to the university by way of the River Salzach.  The students would walk accompanied by the exuberant sounds of a march; here, the D Major, K. 335, the first of two marches that attach to the Posthorn Serenade.

The spicy performance of the Serenade proper highlights, even exaggerates, the prominence of the Concentus Musicus Wien brass, opening with a huge double crescendo that would exploit the acoustics of the outdoor square of Fischer von Erlach’s Collegiate Church. The effect comes close to what Vivaldi accomplished for antiphonal writing for his chosen Venetian cathedrals. In spite of the grandiose, pompous nature of the scoring and Harnoncourt’s own histrionics, the Trio of the first Menuetto enjoys a plastic, intimate resonance between flute and bassoon, typical of the fine woodwind concertante style Mozart courted for the G Major fourth and fifth movements, Andante grazioso and Rondeau: Allegro ma non troppo.  The first of these interior movements poses a galant theme in the style of a gentle, bucolic cassation, both refined and emotionally “sensitive” in the style of C.P.E. Bach. The Concentus Musicus Wien two oboes make expressive points along with the two flutes and two bassoons. The various dialogues and frugal cadenza may be likened to the friendly, slightly nostalgic banter of the students’ making their respective good-byes.

The ensuing Allegro definitely achieves the status of a double concerto for first flute and oboe, aerial, witty, and energetic. The accompanying four instrumentalists, along with an active French horn, keep the transparent tissue moving, the Concentus strings quite diaphanous in their support. A relatively melancholy Andantino follows in the violins’ low register, and its D Minor affect casts a momentary sense of (Masonic) mortality upon the proceedings. The second Menuetto recaptures the blithely accented geniality of the prior movements, while also suggesting the imminent departure of the graduates of the University of Salzburg. The first of the two Trios in this lets us savor the Concentus Musicus Wien piccolo in the manner of a Handel hornpipe. The new sonority comes by way of the posthorn, an instrument usually banned when post coaches drove through the town. The postilion announces the note of departure, and the ceremonial gait of the Trio emerges even more strongly, the violin line’s lilting with more nostalgia. The Finale: Presto carries a dizzying momentum, a mass fluttering of hands and handkerchiefs. The spirited writing for strings, winds, and tympani, often polyphonic, conveys much of the sheer joie de vivre of The Abduction from the Seraglio. Quite a gem, this grand piece d’occasion, whose beauties I first encountered via Eduard van Beinum forty years ago!

Harnoncourt’s excursions into the extroverted Mozart continue with his rousing treatment of the 1783 Haffner Symphony, rife those intrusive trumpet fanfares of which our conductor has become inordinately fond. The “fiery” first movement Allegro con spirito casts forth leaping figures – as well as rushing scales and a descending fourth – in the empfindsamer stile of C.P.E. Bach, or even the E-flat Symphony of Carl’s ‘London’ brother J.C. Bach from Op. 18, No. 1. The contrasting intimacy of the G Major Andante comes as a pleasant tonic in string legato from the prior, stentorian fortes from Dr. Harnoncourt. Another blustery assault in the form of the Menuetto reminds us once more of the deft confidence of Die Entfuehrung aus Serail, although the Trio does charm us. The final Presto has something of Osmin’s furor, spliced to inventive alternations of orchestral dynamics in runs and octave chords. The secondary theme suggests an imperious court gavotte. Most theatrical, the trumpets and drums that move us in gallops to the coda, a wild tapestry of suspensions and grace-notes, opera buffa made epic by dint of a Viennese master.

—Gary Lemco

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