One wonders who had the brilliant idea to pair these kids with the ancient (91-year-old) Marriner for recording Mozart concertos? Perhaps Marriner came cheap at this point and someone figured it was a way to cut costs.
Whatever the reason, this release is completely devoid of the very characteristics we would expect from such youngsters at the keyboard - namely a sense of youthful freshness, exuberance and a sense of discovery. Unfortunately, that is nowhere to found in these careful, methodical, lifeless readings. Instead, this is low-voltage, old-man Mozart. I found it interesting that the booklet quotes Marriner as saying: "These boys are so refreshing, musically and personally...and so open to any sort of musical suggestions you make." Yep, it is obvious from the very first bar that Marriner stamped his mark on these boys. With a lead balloon. The Sonata in D major for four hands is a little better - somewhat fresher and well played. However, it is still careful - a feeling of intimidation from the microphones, perhaps.
The entire CD does bring superb recorded sound - full, warm and colorful within a gorgeous acoustic. As a matter of fact, it sounds so good I had to check the booklet to see if it was an original DG recording. And, sure enough, it isn't. This is a joint production with Molto Piano VOF and was recorded by Opera Omnia Productions. This alone may explain the superb sound, rather uncharacteristic of DG, heard on this disc. It's such a great pity that the performances are so flat.
I hate to be so cruelly critical of Neville Marriner. I have dozens of his CDs on my shelves. He was a consistently excellent conductor all through his career - well, at least until he started recording for Capriccio, where the inspiration began to lag considerably. But, at some point, one has to accept reality and know when to pass the baton (literally). And record companies need to know when enough is enough. He died just a year after this CD was recorded, at age 92.
One can only imagine the insight and joy which might have resulted by utilizing a conductor with the energy and willingness to bring out the best in these boys. But alas, it's a real snoozer.
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