MOZART Serenades Nos 11 & 12
What could be better than Mozart in entertainment mode, writing with his characteristic sensitivity for wind instruments? And what could be better than two of his finest outdoor octets from the 1780s? The Oslo Kammerakademi, founded by David Friedemann Strunck, principal oboist of the city’s Philharmonic Orchestra, use period horns with modern woodwinds, and those wonderful valveless instruments form the backbone to the sound here, chattering, clattering and chortling as well as providing gentle sustaining power.
Mozart shows both sides of his musical personality in the two serenades, with the lyrical E flat work, K375 (in its revised version with added oboes), contrasting with the furrow-browed Sturm und Drang of the C minor, K388. Each member of the Academy is a crack soloist and there is never a poorly turned phrase or an ill-considered blend; ornamentation, too, while subtly employed, is suitably piquant.
It comes as a bit of a surprise after the grand C major close of K388 to drop suddenly into B flat for the Clemenza Overture (Mozart wrote it in trumpet-festooned C major) but it turns out that Joseph Triebensee, himself an oboist who made these arrangements of the first-act numbers from the opera, wasn’t afraid to transpose at will to fit his ensemble to perfection. Wonderful solos, too: for example the bassoon as Sesto in ‘Come ti piace imponi’ and the oboe as Vitellia in ‘Deh se piacer mi vuoi’. And the horns – the horns! – in the Marcia.
The microphones move out a touch for the Harmoniemusik to accommodate the addition of string bass and timpani, so the sound here is a little less rascally than in the serenades, which is perhaps fitting for Mozart’s valedictory opera seria. Wonderful music, wonderfully played.