In our Woodwind Overview (Nov/Dec 2005) we recommend members of the American Symphony/Stokowski (Vanguard), Bavarian Radio Orchestra/Davis (RCA), Marlboro Alumni/Moyse (Sony or Boston), and on peri¬od instruments, Nachtmusique/Hoeprich (Glossa) and Ensemble Philidor (Calliope). The first one, from 1966, was outstanding for its time but owing to the unvarying vibrato from the first oboist might now be better replaced with newer recordings, such as mem¬bers of the Orchestra of St Luke’s/Mackerras (Telarc). Stokowski’s recording has a spacious¬ness not found here, and the ensemble sounds larger than nearly all others, including this one. Given the considerable competition, what distinguishes this release?
Karl Haas, the German-British musicolo¬gist and conductor who died in 1970 (not the German-American radio personality who died in 2005), discovered that the fourth movement in the E-flat Serenade, a minuet, had not one but two trios, and recorded the additional trio section in 1959 in the work’s original sextet instrumentation. This appears to be the first recording with eight instruments. Haas also discovered that measure 19 in that movement did not belong and should be cut. Is it worth purchasing a CD to hear about two minutes of Mozart you’ve never heard before and about two seconds less that didn’t belong?
This performance of the serenades on modern instruments is mellifluous and blend¬ed. In the Grand Partita’s opening movement the phrasing can be somewhat literal and the accents harsh. Tempos in the B-flat Serenade suit the piece, but all the fast movements in the E-flat Serenade need more energy. The Adagio is perhaps too fast, especially if you were to compare this earthbound rendition at 4:12 with members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (DG) taking a heavenly 6:02. There are places where the group plays slow appoggiaturas rather than fast ones. If you’d like a fine performance of the B-flat Serenade, nearly though not quite top tier, and a dull, unsatisfy¬ing performance of the E-flat one, here it is.
Not long ago (M/A 2014) Patrick Hanudel praised members of the Stuttgart Radio Sym¬phony for their renditions of the Serenade in B-flat and Fantasia, K 608. Consider that choice.