Mozart: Symphonies 40 & 41/Divertimenti (2000)

by | Jan 25, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Mozart: Symphonies 40 & 41/Divertimenti (2000)

Program: MOZART: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550; Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter;” Divertimento in D Major, K. 136
Performers: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Riccardo Muti
Studio: Philips DVD B0005905-09
Video: 4:3 full screen, color
Audio PCM Stereo 
Length: 95 minutes
Rating:****

Taped live at the 1991 Salzburg Festival‚s Grosses Festspielhaus in honor of Mozart’s Bi-centennial, Muti and Vienna Philharmonic are in lush, even opulent form. Certainly, the Divertimento in D for Strings, composed by the fourteen-year-old Mozart, has rarely enjoyed such voluptuous realization of what was originally a quartet setting.  The G Major Andante basks in Italian figures. The short Presto is a vivacious, even fugal, affair rife with exuberance and canny shades of color. Deft camerawork that utilizes rapid cross-cuts keeps the music moving visually as well as aurally, with one wonderful subito in the Finale by Muti in which he dips his left hand down into the basement.

Muti plays the G Minor Symphony for its Sturm und Drang sensibilities, its intense disturbances in the diviso strings, the interplay of woodwinds and strings, the agitated sadness in its affective pathos.  Muti molds every phrase  with loving care, the camera alert to the shifts in texture and registration as move from conductor to strings to winds in studied synchronicity, courtesy of director Hugo Kaech. The E-flat Andante is played for its moments of unease, the fluttering accents and semitonal clashes prominent as they unfold amidst the seeming serenity and spiritual repose. The trio in G Major of the Minuet savors the playing of the French horns in high relief. Beautiful shots of the VPO contrabass section as they ply the three-bar phrases of the main theme. Rocketing, tragic figures, startling harmonic modulations, and affecting polyphony punctuate the last, grief-laden movement, which Muti keeps moving at a pace just a tad under frenzied.

The miracles of the C Major Symphony hardly need another recounting. The opening fanfare becomes an organic entity of its own, sometimes assuming incredible harmonic shape. The silken VPO strings and horns make the musical process seem all too facile. Muti’s gestures have become more expansive than in the G Minor Symphony, his jaw even more set as he accents the martial character of the opening movement. The false recapitulation in F resounds, tutti, then insinuates itself into marvelous polyphony between strings and winds. The repeats lend an epic spaciousness to the work. The F Major Andante an aching song that moves to C Minor, only to emerge back in the sunlight. A soft but brilliantly urgent militancy permeates the Menuetto, whose trio motif anticipates the main theme of the finale. Muti gets a hint of mystery in the opening riff for the amazing Molto allegro finale, the polyphonic aspects of which defy human logic. Excellent flute work, along with strings, tympani and horns in constant motion. Triumph, jubilation, the celebration of musical ingenuity, and an inevitable sense of what the world lost so young in Mozart–all these affects can be heard in this music and in the spontaneous ovation which erupts after the last notes float into posterity.

–Gary Lemco

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