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LEBRECHT LISTENS | An Argument For Mozart's Jupiter Symphony

By Norman Lebrecht on January 25, 2019

Andrew Manze (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)
Tired of Mozart? The NDR Radiophilharmonie, under the direction of Andrew Manze make a convincing case for a re-listen. (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Mozart: Symphonies 40 and 41 (Pentatone)

★★★★ (out of five)

The conductor Hans von Bülow once described Mendelssohn’s music as ‘something to be got over in childhood, like measles’. I feel the same way about much of Mozart and listen to very little, making an exception now and then only when I have a particular purpose to study a piece — in this case, the Jupiter Symphony, Mozart’s last.

It so happened that a Pentatone CD with the NDR Radiophilharmonie landed just as I was reaching up the shelf for the unassailable Abbado/LSO on DG and its arrival proved more than just instructive. The Hamburg radio orchestra, not always the most disciplined, have refined their manners under Andrew Manze, a musician versed in period practice and keen to span the gap between full-blooded music making and organic vegan.

Their Mozart style sits — as Neville Marriner did with the Academy of St Martin’s after Chris Hogwood huffed off to join the faddists — nicely between the extremes. The entries are crisp as roasted kale, and the tempi skip along at a pace that would have turned Karajan apoplectic. The Jupiter’s finale runs, molto allegro, right off the dial, hinting all the while at the unknowable. Manze imposes no personal theory or quirk. He just directs what is written, and at maximum precision and coherence. The ending comes, as it should, abruptly and with a sense of shock and deprivation. No-one ever leaves the Jupiter fulfilled. If this is going to be the Mozart of the 2020s, bring it on.

Mozart: Symphonies 40 and 41 (Pentatone) is available at Amazon and iTunes.

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