This most elegant performance of two of Mozart’s wind serenades is given by members of the European Union Chamber Orchestra under their conductor, Santiago Mantas. They perform on modern instruments, and the original double bass is retained in the Gran Partita. Mozart directs that the bass line may be played by double bass or contrabassoon, but he evidently intended a string bass, because the indications pizzicato and arco are found in the bass part. The double bass’s pizzicato creates a pleasing yet subtle accompaniment, evident on the recording.
It is possible that the Gran Partita was intended as a gift to Mozart’s wife Constanze Weber, for performance on their wedding day in 1782. It was scored for thirteen musicians – a pair each of oboes, clarinets, basset horns and bassoons, four horns and double bass. The Serenade in E flat is smaller in scale: it was written in 1781 as a sextet, and Mozart arranged it as an octet in the following year, adding a pair of oboes. Six of his friends serenaded Mozart with the piece on his name-day, 31 October 1781 at 11pm, as he was about to go to bed. He wrote to his father that he was surprised ‘in the most pleasant fashion imaginable with the first chord in E flat’.
This second serenade has had a more chequered career than the Gran Partita. The original manuscript is in the Prussian State Library in Berlin. Only movements 1, 3 and 5 are in Mozart’s hand; movements 2 and 4 are by an unknown copyist. It was published by a friend of Mozart, a music-loving official at the Viennese court, Aloys Fuchs (1799-1853), who was a bass singer in the Imperial Chapel and an employee in the War Department. Fuchs compiled the score of the serenade by collating early parts. However, he inserted an extra bar (bar 19 of the second minuet), and omitted its trio. The published octet version contains the same errors.
The musicologist Karl Haas (1900-1970) corrected these errors using the manuscript copy in his possession. He intended to conduct the octet version with the erroneous bar omitted and the restored trio, but died before doing so. This CD is the first recording in which we are able to hear the original version; this performance therefore constitutes an important contribution to Mozartian studies. The recording is extremely balanced and clear; the interpretation by Santiago Mantas is graceful and well-informed. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording, of the highest calibre.