MOZART: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”; Divertimento No. 17 in D Major; Divertimento No. 11 — Chicago Symphony Orchestra/NBC Symphony Orchestra (K. 251)/Fritz Reiner — Testament

by | Aug 24, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 “Eine Kleine
Nachtmusik”; Divertimento No. 17in D Major, K. 334; Divertimento No.
11, K. 251 — Chicago Symphony Orchestra/NBC Symphony Orchestra (K.
251)/ Fritz Reiner

Testament SBT 1379 79:59 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi)****:

Incursions in to the rich Fritz Reiner (1888-1963) legacy accrued by
RCA Victor, here Mozart inscriptions 1954-1955 which prove relatively
light and stylish, given the romantic standard of performance of the
period. Reiner harbored an affection for Mozart’s music which
translated into inscriptions on a more generous scale than had Ormandy
in Philadelphia or Munch in Boston. While one cannot call Koussevitzky
a major Mozart player, there is more than one might assume, and it
would behoove the restoration-masters to do a healthy resuscitation
there, too. While Reiner’s rebuilding of the Chicago Symphony 1953-1963
remains his great achievement, his real desire would have been to have
led the Philadelphia Orchestra — a post he assumed only in the summer
concerts at the Robin Hood Dell.

The Serenade in G (4 December 1954) has more doublings than in Mozart’s
time, as well as a more generous vibrato certainly, but the entire
ethos is one of liquid movement and a transparent, light heart. The
interior movements especially enjoy a pointed conversation among the
second violins and violas. Nor do the rhythmic intricacies of the
Divertimento, K. 334 (26 April 1955) impose any difficulties on
Reiner’s fluent urgings of tempo and accent. For sheer inner
complexity, the opening Allegro must have provided tastes as wide as
Janacek’s and Britten‚s a model of seamless texture. The second
movement theme-and-variations (almost a concerto grosso, in part) gives
us many hints what Reiner might have made of Dvorak’s Symphonic
Variations or Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding, had Reiner programmed them.
Lovely sounds from the French horns accompany the Chicago strings.
Galant poise marks the Menuetto, the tiny sforzati notwithstanding; the
second Menuetto bubbles and struts most effectively. The final Rondo is
a hearty dance, restrained but happy. The marvelous Adagio possesses a
wistful melancholy, but it sings as divinely as anything in Cosi fan
tutte. The Divertimento No. 11 with Toscanini’s NBC Symphony (21-22
September 1954), recorded at the Manhattan Center rather than at the
acoustically dubious Studio 8H, still has drier resonance than the
recordings made at Orchestra Hall, Chicago. But the interplay between
oboe and lower strings, with the upper strings’ acting as an antiphon
is quite effective in the Allegro molto, already testifying to Reiner’s
exacting standards of performance. The open-air character of the two
Menuetti, the second a theme-and-variations, is piquant and charming.
The real treasure for me is the Andantino, a piece of delicate
porcelain, itself a vivid addition to the Reiner mystique. The
energetic Rondo and Marcia alla francese enjoy an incisive musical bite
and dancing articulation in the string work that will delight even the
most rigorous Mozartean.

–Gary Lemco

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