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Sir Charles Mackerras turns his talents to Mozart and Dvořák and produces one of the best Mozart symphony recordings ever
Repertoire: Symphonies Nos 29, 31, ‘Paris’, 32, 35, ‘Haffner’ & 36, ‘Linz’
Artists: Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Mackerras
Label: Linn CKD 350
Repertoire: Symphonies Nos 7 & 8
Artists: Philharmonia Orchestra/Mackerras
Label: Signum Classics SIGCD183
Charles Mackerras probably knows more about classical period performance than any other conductor (he was researching this area decades before it became fashionable). Sure enough, his approach to Mozartian style here seems near-ideal. Phrasing is crisp and clear, but not brittle. The semi-vibrato string-playing makes musical lines and rhythms ultra-vivid, without sounding harsh or dry. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is clearly having a great time and conveys it, too. Meanwhile, the Mackerras touch brings out the varying character of these fabulous works, so that the roistering D major crackle of the ‘Haffner’ sounds subtly but precisely different from the C major grandeur of the ‘Linz’. And the single-movement Symphony No.32 in G major emerges as a far richer and more powerful work than its eight-minute length would suggest. Always a keen explorer of manuscript sources, Mackerras offers both versions of the ‘Paris’ Symphony’s slow movement (making one wonder why Mozart or anyone else thought the first one needed replacing). Near the end of the Finale of Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony, too, he includes a small but telling change of detail from the published score. His interpretations of this zingily Bohemian work and the more Brahmsian Seventh don’t quite reach the heights of his wonderful Supraphon recordings of the Eighth and the ‘New World’ with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. But there’s still a lovely balance here between drama and gracefulness, with the Philharmonia responding warmly at every point in these live recordings.