W. A. Mozart
LP Stock Number: Cisco Music KIJC 9104 and CLP 7001
If it were up to me, I would have the Witt symphony as the lead title in this recording. Recordings of most Mozart symphonies are common and particularly so for the "Haffner" and the last three he composed. Mozart lovers have an embarrassment of riches to choose from starting with orchestral size, original or modern instrumentation, large auditorium or studio etcetera. Then you can choose the conductor or "type" of conductor; this is a true embarrassment of choices for Mozart lovers. So how would I describe this recording and performance? I do not currently possess a better performance of the Haffner but I do question the phrase in the liner notes about the orchestra and conductor's attacking the tempo with great emotion and abandon. My memory would counter with saying the performance strikes a fine solid middle ground that should satisfy most Mozart lovers if not becoming their new first choice. There's tough competition with other small orchestral groups headed by noted Mozart specialists such as Pinnock, Glover, Saraste, Paillard and Mackerras just to name a handful.
I have recently been playing around with some very old, but new (NOS) tubes for my preamplifier and CD player with much comparative listening. It just hit me hard that I had been doing all and, I mean all, my listening with CD, DVD-A and hybrid SACD discs. My system had become a bit fuller or richer sounding as a result. No LP records have been played in many weeks, for which I apologize. As a double check I pulled out other familiar recordings not just Mozart selections for audio comparisons. I still get the definite impression that the recording took place in a relatively small and reverberant location. I think the location was too reverberant or that the microphones were allowed to pickup too much of that characteristic. As a result we are treated to a very warm and full quality but lacking somewhat in clarity and detail in the mid and upper bass. The rest of the frequency range is quite good.
Freidrich Witt's "Jena" symphony is a controversial rarely heard and even more rarely recorded work than any Mozart symphony. The relatively unknown Witt was better known as a fine cellist and composer of chamber works. I am in complete agreement with the liner notes about this selection which fortunately I did not read until listening sessions were finished. Not only did I find it to be a particularly joyous and entertaining composition, I definitely preferred it to the companion Mozart "Haffner" symphony! Not knowing the composition does not let me completely separate composition from performance. Is it a pretty good composition with a superb performance or a superb composition with an adequate performance? Whatever your feelings, how would you begin to prove it? In the quieter movements I kept hearing hints of Haydn as light or lilting melodies sprightly performed and in the outer movements there were definite underpinnings in form and structure that I remember from Beethoven's sixth and I believe eighth symphonies.
As good as most aspects of the Mozart performance and recording are, Witt's "Jena" symphony tops it slightly but definitely in essentially every way. The orchestral playing is a bit more cohesive, microphone placement better, detail a bit clearer, as is the separation of instruments in the lower registers and greater clarity of the winds. Not really remarkable for its time, 1959, (remember some of the great RCA recordings from the mid and late fifties) the excellent quality of this recording is probably due to the great simplicity of the recording technique and process and here pressed on 180 gram vinyl. Celebrate an excellent performance and recording of an essentially unknown composition by a very rarely heard-from composer! Highly, very highly recommended recording.