In addition to their creative programming, the conductor and soloists on oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, flute and harp also deserve praise for vibrant, sparkling, and never ponderous performances reflecting both a genuine collaborative spirit and the Parisian aesthetic behind the music's composition.
Record Review /
Plain Dealer (Cleveland) / 15. January 2012
With soloists from his own Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado here demonstrates formidably their virtuosity and sensitivity . . . [Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra]: The interweaving of soloists is a delight . . . They are well balanced against the orchestra, so that the glorious melody in the slow movement comes out ravishingly . . . The springing of the trotting theme in the finale rounds the performance off perfectly . . . [Sinfonia concertante]: it has many delights in such a performance as this . . . The finale is totally delicious . . . [Orchestra Mozart]: their crisp precision of ensemble speaks for itself.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. March 2012
. . . [Sinfonia concertante]: Das Musikerquartett . . . bietet ein "amaible jeu d'esprit" -- eine konzertierende Filigrankunst, die für helles Entzücken sorgt . . . [Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra]: ein charmantes Dialogisieren der Instrumente, das Jacques Zoon und Letizia Belmondo mit Gusto zelebrieren.
Record Review /
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / 23. February 2012
. . . [das Orchestra Mozart] musiziert in fabelhafter Gelöstheit, mit viel Spielfreude . . .
Record Review /
St. Galler Tagblatt / 29. February 2012
Abbado and Orchestra Mozart Continue Their Acclaimed Mozart Celebration
The great conductor Claudio Abbado and his hand-picked Orchestra Mozart continue their critically-acclaimed series of recordings for DG with two of Mozart's most inspired works for multiple wind instruments and orchestra
The sublime concerto for flute and harp K.299 is amongst Mozart's most popular works. Written at the start of his final stay in Paris in 1778, it was commissioned by an aristocrat who was an accomplished flautist and whose daughter was described by Mozart himself as "a magnificent harpist". The soloists on this new recording are Dutch flautist Jaques Zoon and Italian harpist Letizia Belmondo
The Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and orchestra K.297b was first played by three virtuoso players, known to Mozart from Manheim, who happened to be in Paris around the same time as a Czech horn virtuoso - the sinfonia concertante form being particularly popular in the French capital at that time
Reviewing the Violin Concertos recording in this series (4779792), Gramophone declared: "There is something that simply feels absolutely right about Abbado’s Mozart"
Intrigue and Transfiguration: Mozart in Paris
In the summer of 1778 Friedrich Melchior von Grimm sat down at his desk in Paris and wrote a lengthy letter to Leopold Mozart in faraway Salzburg. The influential German diplomat and journalist evidently felt the need to justify his actions after he had earlier done so much to further the Parisian career of Leopold’s son, the child prodigy “Wolfgang Mozart de Salzbourg”. But there was little he could do to help the adult composer, and his patronage remained feeble and ineffectual. Mozart, he complained, was “too trusting, too inactive, too easy to gull, too inexperienced in the means that may lead to success. To make an impression here one has to be artful, enterprising and daring. To make his fortune I wish he had but half his talent and twice as much shrewdness.”
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that when Mozart arrived in Paris in 1778 he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. All he could offer as a way of making up for the lack of shrewdness noted by Grimm was an excess of pride in his work as an artist. On the other hand, qualities such as patience, perseverance, natural or false modesty, a social instinct, a partisan spirit and familiarity with the right people were alien to Mozart’s character both then and ever after.
And yet he asserted himself, when he needed to, as a “genius of obedience”, to use the title conferred on him by the Austrian historian Friedrich Heer (1916–1983), who wrote that “Mozart does not create what he ‘wants’ to but fulfils commissions. The artist is at the beck and call of the world of the ancien régime and, like Mozart, he deals with his allotted life as a servant and lackey by fulfilling his commissions without any sentimentality.” In April 1778, right at the start of his final stay in Paris, Mozart wrote his Concerto for flute and harp in C major K. 299 (297c). It was Grimm who put the composer in touch with the man who commissioned the work, Adrien-Louis Bonnières de Souastre, Duc de Guines, previously the French ambassador in London. This music-loving aristocrat was an enthusiastic and proficient flautist – Mozart even described his playing as “incomparable”. And his daughter, Mozart went on, was a “magnificent harpist”.
Mozart also gave her composition lessons, although this was evidently a thankless task, as he had occasion to complain in a letter to Leopold: “If she has no ideas or thoughts – and at present she doesn’t have any at all – it’ll all be in vain, for – God knows – I can’t give her any.” For several months Mozart also waited in vain for the fee he had been promised for the concerto. But the music he conceived in Paris throws a transfiguring light on the salon of the Duc de Guines, and it is tempting in this context to recall Adolf von Menzel’s painting TheFlute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci and to imagine the duke, like Frederick himself, as an elegant man of the world, peering keenly at the candlelit score while surrounded by a host of musicians and a hand-picked audience – this, after all, was a privilege of the aristocracy.
The Paris Concert Spirituel, conversely, had developed under the guiding hand of the celebrated Gluckian tenor Joseph Legros to become a pioneering institution in the lives of the city’s middle-class music lovers: as an attraction, it was open to the public, rather than a closed circle frequented only by high society. Among the acclaimed virtuosos who appeared here in 1778 were three of Mozart’s old acquaintances from Mannheim: the oboist Friedrich Ramm, the flautist Johann Baptist Wendling and the bassoonist Georg Wenzel Ritter. Also at this period the famous horn player Jan Václav Stich was performing in Paris: having fled the service of Count Thun, he was now appearing under an assumed name as Giovanni Punto.
The presence of these four musicians persuaded Mozart to contribute to the medium of the symphonie concertante, a genre exceptionally popular in Paris at this period. His new work should have been introduced at the Concert Spirituel on 19 April 1778, but in the event the performance did not take place, when Mozart found himself the victim of an intrigue fomented by the Italian composer Giuseppe Maria Cambini, who succeeded in persuading Legros to drop Mozart’s work and replace it with a symphonie concertante of his own. This piece, too, was written for Ramm, Wendling, Ritter and Stich, all of whom took part in its performance. “Here too I have my enemies,” Mozart commented wryly on this discouraging turn of events.
The autograph score of Mozart’s symphonie concertante is no longer extant, and the version familiar today, with a solo clarinet replacing the original flute, dates back to a copy from the 1860s that was owned by the Mozart biographer Otto Jahn before passing into the holdings of the Royal Library in Berlin. Whether and to what extent this score (K. 297b) is identical to Mozart’s Paris Sinfonia concertante K. 297B is a question that scholars have yet to resolve. And yet not even the most persistent of doubts in the work’s authenticity can impair the listener’s pleasure in this delightful piece.