Although the Mozart Year officially began on January 27 with the 250th anniversary of his birth, and a slew of new releases and re-issues, it looks like the industry is ratcheting up stakes for the fall season with holiday gift-giving firmly in its sights. And although you may think there are no significant bases left untouched, think again.
For example, this new collection from the illustrious original instrument Concerto Köln, conducted by its new leader Anton Steck, contains an absolute jewel which is almost impossible to find otherwise, and has no real competition in terms of performance. It’s the delightful, charming and seductive ballet music Mozart wrote soon after his arrival in Paris in May 1778 for an otherwise forgotten ballet called Les Petits Riens (Little Trifles, or Sweet Nothings).
A prehistoric Decca recording made by Karl Münchinger and his Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra served as the standard for this wonderful music for decades, but for some unknown reason the music has been neglected by the majors aside from recordings by Raymond Leppard and Neville Marriner.
In addition to the nine pieces that are almost certainly by Mozart (the only surviving score does not name names), Steck has included three additional pieces (one cutie which was on the Münchinger disc, and two others which are of no particular consequence) which, the experts believe, are not by Mozart. The performances here are of the very highest standard, alert with energy and a twinkle in the players’ eyes, and the recording is crisp and colorful.
The other music on the disc includes the riotous Impresario Overture, which also used to be heard more often (as it deserved to be), and a gaggle of more popular odds and ends which make for a very enjoyable 70 Mozartian minutes.
– Laurence Vittes