Recording of August 1985: Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Prague Chamber Orchestra, Charles Mackerras conducting.
Telarc CD 80108 (CD). Robert Woods, prod., Jack Renner, eng. DDD.
Holt's First Law of Recording states: "The better the performance, the worse the recordingand vice versa." It's true; really fine recordings of superb musical performances are so rare that the discovery of one such gem is cause for rejoicing. Well, you can rejoice: this is one of them.
Although Charles Mackerras has recorded a number of major works, including operas, especially by Janácek, he is best-known among audiophiles for his recordings of frothy ballet music like Pineapple Poll, which he instills with a buoyant elan that few conductors seem to be able to muster these days.
Mozart's chamber works, however, demand more than mere sprightliness. In fact, there is only one particular style of light, incisive orchestral playing that catches the spirit of Mozart's music, and most conductors simply can't do it properly. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ("A Little Night Music"), in particular, has suffered untold disservice at the hands of conductors who are all too obviously bored with this chestnut. Heavy-handed dullness has become a hallmark of recorded performances; Mackerras here manages to make it sound like a newfound work.
These are utterly delightful performances. Even more surprising, the recording is so good that it seems not to be there at all. Of course, the music isn't high-powered system demo material, but here the excellence of Telarc's sound (which has been getting better with recent releases) just lets the music pass unscathed, with not a trace of that obtrusive and (to me) irritating hi-fi quality that screams "Listen to how great I sound!" The recording here is simply a vehicle for the music, and it serves the music admirably. The strings sound absolutely gorgeous; completely natural, without a trace of the steeliness that so frequently mars the other recordings of these works on both CD and LP.
This disc is what classical recording is all about. And I think it a little amusing (or ironic) that the definitive recordings of both these works had to come, not from RCA or CBS (both of which have recorded them more than you can shake a stick at) but from a small "audiophile" record company. This Telarc release is an unalloyed delight, and deserves to be in every music-lover's collection.
Bravo Telarc, Mackerras, and Mozart!J. Gordon Holt