Leopold & Wolfang Amadeus Mozart - From Kindersinfonie to Bauernhochzeit
We are so used to having Leopold Mozart pictured as a somewhat stern and disapproving figure that it becomes rather hard to imagine that he ever had a sense of humour, even when just about the only composition of his that anyone knows is the Toy Symphony. That work - whose authorship is in fact far from certain - is included here along with another jokey piece of his, a rather Telemannesque Peasant Wedding Symphony suitably characterised by drones, some kind of zither and what sounds like a donkey impersonation, plus at its heart a rather solemn Andante. Strange piece. Indeed, this is a strange disc altogether, with these two bits of orchestral horseplay framing two early works by the boy Wolfgang - his first surviving symphony, the string fugue from Gallimathias musicum - and his piano variations on Ah, vous dirai-je, maman, composed at the start of his golden decade in Vienna. The symphony may have spirit and the variations wit, but surely none of these pieces shows its composer at his best, and what the selection is supposed to tell us about them I do not know. Neither, it seems does the booklet-writer, who provides no sense of a “concept” and at one point even treats us to a note on a piece that is not on the disc.
The performances are as spirited and expert as one would expect from Ton Koopman's merry band. The “symphonies” are dispatched with lively confidence - the toys in particular brandished with considerable vim and precision - and so too is the fugue, although I cannot help feeling it would have been more effective without the harpsichord tinkling along. Unfortunately Tini Mathot's performance of the variations is heavy-handed and lacking in life, making one wonder even more why the piece is there at all.