My favorite Mozart

by on January 26, 2006 at 5:04 am in Music | Permalink

Here are my favorite pieces by Mozart, and recommended recordings...

The Operas: The peaks of his achievement.  For Figaro I recommend Carlos Guilini or Rene Jacob, for Cosi Fan Tutte, Karl Boehm, here is my post on Don Giovanni, and Klemperer is a sure thing for The Magic Flute.  For The Abduction from the Sergalio, how about Beecham with a nod to Krips?

The String Quintets: Grumiaux’s group, with Takacs as a good runner-up.  Most of the string quartets are boring.

Symphonies: I am courting hate mail, but 38-41 will suffice, toss in the first movement of 29 if need be.  I like von Karajan for the last two symphonies (not everyone does), and there are many good versions of the others.

Piano Concerti: Focus on 20-27; I grew up with Casadesus and Szell but you have many good choices.  Few areas of the repertoire have been better covered.

Piano sonatas: Uchida all the way.  They start getting good around K311.  Here are bloggers on the sonatas.  As a general rule, Mozart before K300 is not so special.

K563: Mozart’s least-known masterpiece, go for Grumiaux.  Even better is the currently unavailable L’Archibudelli version.

If you own these you have a decent chunk of the essential Mozart.

Most overrated Mozart: The Violin concerti and then the Requiem.  Contrary to cliche, Suessmayr ruined the ending.  The Clarinet Concerto was once wonderful, but it has been overexposed in muzak, Nordstrom, and overpriced faux Italian restaurants.  By the way, it won a listeners’ poll as "best Mozart," the Requiem came in second.

Most underrated Mozart: The violin and piano sonatas, and the short, comic vocal pieces.  Try also the Piano and Wind Quintet, K. 452, the Clarinet Trio, K. 498, the Piano Quartets (with George Szell as pianist), and the Clarinet Quintet, K. 581.

Comments are open, do offer your opinions…

James Tauber January 26, 2006 at 6:16 am

I haven’t actually heard recordings with Szell as pianist but his conducting of the Symphony 41 is my favourite, esp. the last movement (which is my favourite symphonic movement from any composer)

For the clarinet works, I love Eric Hoeprich. I don’t always prefer original instrument versions but for the clarinet I certainly do because of its darker quality.

I agree about Uchida and love her concerti too.

jult52 January 26, 2006 at 8:47 am

Have to totally disagree with you about the Quartets. The Emerson Quartet version of K. 387 and the d-minor Quartet on Deutsche Gramophon is amazing. I highly recommend that recording. In contrast, I am not so high on the Quintets.

But you nailed it about the Requiem – clearly an unfinished piece, although it has marvelous moments.

Agree with the poster above about the finale of the “Jupiter” Symphony. For me, there is still something very special about the Bruno Walter recording of that piece.

The last time I heard the Szell recording of the Piano Quartets (with the Budapest Qt, right?) I didn’t like it AT ALL but that was a few years ago.

lee January 26, 2006 at 9:35 am

The Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra. By anyone, after all, it’s Mozart.

Andrew January 26, 2006 at 10:53 am

I’d put the C Minor Mass in the underrated category, especially when compared with the Requiem. Unfortunately, like the Requiem, it also went unfinished (there‚Äôs no Agnus Dei). Mozart had written the mass for his wedding to Constanze but it was not completed in time and he pretty much abandoned it after using some of the music in a cantata a couple years later. The Laudamus Te ranks right up there as one of Mozart’s best soprano arias (Constanze was the soloist at the wedding). The Robert Shaw recording is pretty good, but there may be better recordings that I have not heard.

Chaldani MacDougalstein January 26, 2006 at 1:53 pm

The quartets by the Quatuor Mosaiques on period instruments are revelatory; for me their’s is the definitive set.

Barkley Rosser January 26, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Oh, I will comment on one peformer issue, as an old
French horn player. The old Angel recordings by Dennis
Brain are still the tops for his four French horn concerti.

jult52 January 27, 2006 at 9:20 am

The Mass in C minor has its incredibly beautiful moments but there’s no way it is a top piece by Mozart.

Donald A. Coffin January 27, 2006 at 12:33 pm

I am a huge fan of Benny Goodman’s recordings of the Clarinet Quartet and Quintet, which do not appear to be available (yet?) on CD. Makes me glad I still have the obsolete capital equipment.

bucky20816 January 27, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Agree with most of your choices, but start the piano concertos at 19 and drop 27 which is awful. 9, 15 and 17 are indispensible too especially 9 which was way beyond anything before it.

You also have to add the K 287 divertimento, K339 vespers, K 297 sinfonia concertante even if he didn’t write it, K376 violin sonata, the Rondo for Piano (K 511) and the Ave Verum.

And some early things you can’t do without: Symphonies 13 and 27, offertories K 272-273, early masses, e.g. K194, and the G Major string quarter K 156.

and don’t go hatin’ on the requiem.

ZakAttack January 27, 2006 at 2:42 pm

Back when Nonesuch was doing for affordable classical music what Naxos is today, they had a bunch of Mozart (serenades and the like) by Karl Ristenpart and the Chamber Orchestra of the Saar, that I could listen to over and over without getting tired of them. Seemed to have just the right touch for the music. I agree with the comments about Mackerras and Szell; there’s a Concerto #25 with Leon Fleisher and Szell you might want to give a listen to, and for something completely different, the “Masonic Funeral Music” with Bruno Walter–a piece that sounds almost as if it could have been written a century later.

Pamela Abrams January 27, 2006 at 4:58 pm

I am disappointed and dismayed by Tyler’s assessment of the Mozart violin conerti. He is sorely wrong! I do not know if Tyler has studied the violin but he is clearly missing the delicacy and utter exquisiteness of those pieces. I suspect he is being far too cavalier in his summation. What a real shame!

Henry January 27, 2006 at 9:37 pm

Leonard Bernstein wrote an article 45 years ago or so asking why Beethoven strode the musical world as a mighty colossus (okay, he didn’t use that cliche). Mozart has clearly displaced him. Why? [This question goes to the question of the place of classical music in popular culture, not to artistic merits.]

Back to the String Quartets: in addition to the d-minor by the Emerson Q, their version of the Hunt and Dissonance are also worth seeking out. The Hunt was unavailable for years, but now is out.

Anonymous October 14, 2008 at 12:17 am

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