February 21, 2022

Mozart: Symphonies 38 & 39 from NDR Philharmonie and Andrew Manze reviewed by MusicWeb International

“There have been many recordings of this symphony in recent years, but I rarely remember a performance in which the first movement introduction is given with quite so much vehemence as here. The recording is crystal clear, immediate, superb.”

In their collaboration, Andrew Manze brings his experience in the field of historically-informed performance to the polished symphonic sound of the NDR Radiophilharmonie, resulting in a prize-winning complete cycle of Mendelssohn symphonies (2017-2018), as well as highly-praised interpretations of Mozart’s 40th and 41st symphonies (2019) and Beethoven’s 5th and 7th symphonies (2020), all released on PENTATONE.

“The ‘Prague’ is a big symphony, making a big effect, and that notwithstanding the absence of the usual minuet and trio movement. It teems with invention and contrapuntal mastery. Manze’s approach is to underline the ‘bigness’ with a robust staccato attack in the first movement. He also observes all the repeats, making this first movement into a whopping 18½ minutes. From the imposing introduction with its implacable tread this is quite clearly a large-boned performance. This is not to say that it is the ‘big band’ Mozart that has been frowned upon for decades now. No, the strings play without vibrato, and make a satisfyingly lean sound, though they sound reasonably numerous; and that leanness does not eschew richness of tone, to be found in abundance in a highly expressive performance of the slow movement. The finale goes at a cracking pace, more light-hearted than the rest of the work, but with its serious side too. The strings play with great brilliance here, but the winds also make their mark, particularly the pair of bassoons to which Mozart has given numerous passages that must be particular fun to play.”

William Hedley

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Photo by Michael Zapf