Mozart: Serenade No. 10 - Ogrintchouk
BIS BIS 2463
Classical - Chamber
Mozart: Serenade No. 10 'Gran Partita'
Beethoven: Variations on Mozart's 'Là ci darem la mano' from Don Giovanni
Members of the Concertgebouworkest
Alexei Ogrintchouk, oboe & direction
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Review by Graham Williams - November 28, 2020
Two years ago BIS released a wonderful recording directed by Alexei Ogrintchouk, principal oboe of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, that included Richard Strauss’s 1944 ‘Sonatina No 2 in E flat major 'Happy workshop', performed by the wind players of the orchestra. Strauss dedicated this piece to “the divine Mozart at the end of a life filled with gratitude” so it is fitting that these same artists should now commit to disc the work that inspired the Strauss composition Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 in B flat K361 (K370a) “Gran Partita”. The compositional history of this ambitious seven-movement work is to say the least vague, but it is now believed that it was composed later than 1780 and first performed in 1784 at a benefit concert for the Vienna-based clarinet and basset horn player Anton Stadler.
Last time I checked there were more than sixty recordings of this masterpiece on CD, but of those, a mere half dozen, including this new release, are widely available in high resolution sound making BIS’s long term commitment to the SACD medium all the more commendable. As on the majority of recordings the thirteen instrument ensemble here comprises pairs of oboes, clarinets, basset horns, four horns and a double bass.
It can, of course, almost be taken for granted that these artists, as members of one of the world’s finest orchestra, will evince superlative musicianship and complete technical assurance in their performance of this Serenade and this proves to be the case. The rightness of Ogrintchouk’s chosen tempo for each movement is self evident and allows the contrasting character of every one of them to be significantly delineated by these amazing musicians. One nice touch to be found on this recording is that in the sixth movement (Tema con variazioni) the theme and each of the six variations that follow have each been allotted a separate track.
Following the Serenade we have a further set of variations, this time from the young Beethoven written in his Bonn years –‘Eight Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ WoO 28. These are scored for the unusual combination of cor anglais and two oboes; the former played by Miriam Pastor Burgos, and the latter by Alexei Ogrintchouk and Nicoline Alt. The consummate skill and wit with which these musicians perform these pieces makes a delightful encore to a splendid release.
The BIS 5.0 multi-channel SACD was recorded in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (March/April 2019). The recording from Marion Schwebel (Producer) and Fabian Frank (Sound engineer) is finely balanced and reveals a wealth of detail even in the denser passages where on some recordings the horns can overwhelm the other players. Here the sound is wonderfully clear and luminous with a wide soundstage that allows the precise identification of the placement of each instrument or group of instruments within the warm ambience of the hall.
I undertook comparisons with some of the alternative versions recorded in hi-res and concluded that though the LSO Live account is immaculately played and well recorded it lacks much of the individuality or nuances of the competition and incidentally has no coupling. Trevor Pinnock with the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble on Linn is refreshingly brisk (perhaps too brisk?). He adds an engaging Haydn Notturno but his instrumentation of the Serenade includes a contra bassoon rather than a double bass – chacun à son goût! The Stuttgart Winds on a Tacet Blu-ray disc are uniformly excellent, but I accept that not every listener is amenable to the concept of Tacet’s ‘Real Surround Sound’.
There can be little doubt, however, that the winning combination of unforced virtuosity and playing of refined elegance delivered in superb sound quality will make this new BIS version, for many, a clear front-runner in a crowded field.
Copyright © 2020 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by Adrian Quanjer - November 30, 2020
Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’ enjoys enormous popularity, and rightly so. The name isn’t Mozart’s, but for a serenade, it is nonetheless as Grand as it is unusual. Written for 13 wind musicians it largely surpasses anything one associates with the Vienna tradition of nightly serenades of street musicians some would hire to play under the balcony of a beautiful and desirable woman. And I suspect that the self-declared lover wouldn’t be able to pay for it either. Moreover, with its considerable length, it would also be a fatiguing and possibly chilly experience for the young lady in question. Not quite something that would help a prospecting lover with his conquest. So, it probably was never intended to be used as an instrument of seduction and nightly entertainment.
Mozart’s real intention remains something of a mystery. Fact is that with this composition he has lifted the proto-type street musician serenade onto a higher, more sophisticated level. Making it in German terminology ‘Salonfähig’. Suggestions vary between a concert in the Vienna Burgteater, with his friend, Anton Stadler directing, written to please the Duke of Bavaria, or for the Viennese Masonic lodge, which Mozart had joined. Leaving these and other theories to scholars testing their differing views in various publications, I’d prefer to stick to what it is for many in our time: A finely crafted piece of work for confirmed wind soloists and most enjoyable entertainment for the listener. As some of the many recordings around have drawn critical remarks, there is reason enough to have a closer look at what Alexei Ogrintchouk has in store for us.
Graham Williams noted in his admirable review that Trevor Pinnock with his students of the Royal Academy of Music used a contrabassoon instead of a double bass. Some advance indeed the view that this is what was originally meant by Mozart, pointing at the fact that the Serenade’s baseline has a low C beyond the range of a double bass. Also, street musicians didn’t go-round with a double bass. However, Mozart liked the sound of the double bass so it is highly likely he replaced the contrabassoon with a double bass for concert performances. And this is now the common format.
From the available hi-res recordings I have chosen to compare this new recording with an earlier one from The Netherlands, The Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Netherlands Wind Ensemble), released in 2005 on their own label NBELIVE, Mozart: Serenade No. 10 - Nederlands Blazers Ensemble. A group of professional wind players drawn from various Dutch symphony orchestras originally formed around Edo de Waart, but since 1988 “playing together for the sheer joy of it” under its new leader and at the time first chair oboist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Bart Schneemann.
John Broggio had some reservations and found the applause at the end, even for those who love it, ‘over the top’. I don’t think that the manifest enthusiasm of the players distorts to the same degree the score. Such things do happen during public performances. The apparent excitement on either side of the hall finds its climax in rewarding applause, which would no doubt have been trimmed with a release on any other label than one’s own!
That said, I agree with the essence of GW’s review. On balance, my preference goes to the newcomer as well, with Ogrintchouk cs. injecting more concentrated expression than the Dutch winds, whilst at the same time displaying just that little bit more playfulness and just that little bit more wit. This should not come as a surprise, realizing that all the musicians have not been taken from the streets in Amsterdam, like happened with the ‘harmoniemusik’ in Vienna in the days of Mozart, but rather from the first and second desks of one of the world’s top orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam.
The bigger difference though is that BIS offers more on disc. It would not be nice to call it a ‘filler’, but that’s what it really is. Some nine minutes of Harmoniemusik, full of charm, with a set of variations taken from a popular contemporary opera aria of Mozart’s manufacture.
In terms of sound, I was struck by the high level of the recording, like the Harmonie was marching in full force into my listening room. And thanks to BIS’ house recording engineers from Take5 the quality is excitingly realistic indeed.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
Copyright © 2020 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net