I usually tend to shy away from these "LSO Live" releases, having been disappointed with performances and sound alike in some earlier releases. But I just couldn't resist this one as it presents a live performance of one of my favorite of all Mozart Serenades.
And I'm glad I took a chance on it, for I found this performance enthralling from beginning to end. Being played by the winds from the LSO, it is immediately obvious these players are used to playing together, notable for their complete unanimity of interpretation, ensemble and - most importantly, a blended sonority. We hear a gorgeous richness to their tone, which is rarely heard to such a degree in wind band ensembles. This quality is aided in no small part by the superlative SACD sound provided by the recording engineers.
For those interested in orchestration, this group utilizes a bass viol rather than a contrabassoon. I personally greatly prefer the latter, but I know that technically goes against the printed score. However, it has been documented that Mozart wanted a contrabassoon but found the instrument (and/or players) of the time to be so clumsy that he substituted a bass instead. And while I was at first disappointed to hear a bass in this group. the feeling did not last long. I was completely drawn into the music-making and such concerns ceased to exist.
This performance is just brimming with charm, grace, freshness and glorious musical phrasing. It is apparent in every measure that this is being played by professional players of the highest caliber. And while there is absolutely nothing to be heard which betrays this was recorded "live", the performance itself simply bubbles with a sense of occasion - of being alive - with perfectly chosen tempos in all seven movements. The group plays without a conductor, which only heightens the sense of spontaneity so characteristic of chamber music.
I recommend this disc with the utmost enthusiasm. My one reservation regarding the use of a bass viol rather than a contrabassoon is easily dismissed. The very short playing time (just 47 minutes) is a more legitimate concern. But given the quality of the recorded SACD sound, I just can't complain even about that.