MOZART Serenade No 19, 'Gran Partita'
Gramophone’s classification (12/08) of the LSO as the fourth-best orchestra in the world always made me think of The Housemartins, who advertised themselves as the fourth-best band in Hull. Nevertheless – and can it really be almost a decade since that exercise was undertaken? – it still means that when its players are on top form, you’ll barely get a better orchestral night out in London.
The same goes for its wind soloists, of course, 12 of whom come together with double-bassist Colin Paris for Mozart’s irresistible Gran Partita. It’s a goodly noise, rumbustious in the dance movements, sleek in the intensely wrought sonata form of the first movement, caressing in the slow music and almost vandalous in the yobbish rondo-finale. There’s the excitement of the live performance, too – and this really is live and in-your-face. There are all the noises of wind-playing, from intakes of breath to keywork, and not excluding the very sounds of transferring a column of air from one’s lungs down the tube of an instrument. There are one or two moments when coordination goes awry but never for long; and three or four when a patch would have been required in studio conditions (there’s one where the oboe’s top B flat malfunctions at the outset of the great Adagio’s recap).
Forty-eight minutes of fun, then, even if not the ultimate library choice. One other thing occurred during listening. I learnt this music as a student from Collegium Aureum’s proto-steampunk period-instrument version (DHM, long deleted), in which maximum contrast was made between perky clarinets and wheezy basset-horns. On modern instruments, the single reeds sound so similar (excepting the difference in range) that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other takes over.