John Eliot Gardiner (cond),
The English Baroque Soloists
Two of Mozart's grandest and best-loved symphonies, among the last he composed, are offered here in vigorous form by one of the world's leading period-instrument ensembles, the English Baroque Soloists, and its founder and conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
The works were composed, together with the 40th, within months of each other in 1788 (he died in 1791), though he may never have seen them publicly performed. And while perhaps there is little new to add to interpretations of these often-recorded works, this is certainly a valuable addition to most collections for the superb renditions of both symphonies.
The textural clarity prized in period instruments can be something of a pay-off for a tone that can seem awkward to those accustomed to the lush brightness of a modern orchestra, yet this tight-knit ensemble's warm sound and expressive playing confirms them as the pre-eminent orchestra of their type, and Gardiner sets a pace that is as precise and lively as in any of his work.
The final movement of the 39th has a dynamic range that can go missing in the more polite offerings of the Classical canon, but here the orchestra brilliantly contrasts the prissy elegance of the main theme with its exuberant conclusion. Equally, in the 41st, the Jupiter, the famously contrapuntal finale is splendid, courtly and thrilling.