If you love Mozart you'll find this Revelatory!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had always felt that the particular "sound" and language of Mozart -- similarities to Haydn notwithstanding -- simply appeared from nowhere. But listen to the work of J.C. Bach! When I first heard his works - in this Philips Duo set -- it was a revelation. And learning that J.C Bach was an early and powerful influence on the young Mozart serves to confirm the notion. Now, many people have written disparagingly about J.C. Bach -- people who should know better, like Charles Rosen (in his great work "The Classical Style") who basically accuses J.C. of being vacuous -- "sensitive, elegant, and a little empty" he puts it, I believe -- and says that he avoids depth of emotion to a disturbing degree. This attitude betrays a lack of familiarity with J.C.'s work. (Take, for example, the middle movement of the E-flat Symphony, op. 8 no. 2: in C minor, it is gentle, melancholy, with a subtle play of light and shadow-- but the impassioned final cadence is suddenly fortissimo and vehement.) These three sets of sinfonias display joy, vigor, melancholy, and are exquisitely beautiful. In fact, although structurally they are less advanced than contemporary Haydn, remember J.C. was isolated away from the center of the still not fully flowered Classical Style. (Comparisons with Haydn's and Mozart's contemporary works are instructive.) And J.C. died within a year of completing the Op. 18 works -- in his mid-forties... imagine how he might have developed! (Mozart, on hearing of J.C.'s death, said "It is a great loss for music." And he should know!) These Op. 18 works -- compared with almost everything else being written in 1781 -- are remarkably forward looking and advanced, not only in their delicious orchestrations, but also in texture and argument. If J.C. doesn't regularly dive into dark moods, remember that Mozart very rarely did as well. Though their minor-key moods are different, that may just be a personality difference: the dark, almost lugubrious depths Mozart plumbed contrasted with the gentle melancholy of J.C.'s minor key movements. He can be quite haunting in them -- a "sultry melancholy" as the Penguin Guide said of Boccherini. The performances on these discs are uniformly excellent as well, as if the recording quality. Very highyly recommended, especially for listeners who are aquainted with, and love, the language of Classical tonality. A foundation collection of the classial repertoire. Kudos to Philips for releasing these sets!"
But too fast!
Musicus | Oslo, Norway | 06/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I subscribe to everything the other reviewer writes - with one single reservation: the tempos! The conductor, Zinman, makes the orchestra very articulate and his interpretation is free for all the mannerisms by which so many other directors are killing these nice symphonies. But Zinman is too fast! He hurries over the outer movements. It is of course impressive that his orchestra can be so articulate at such a speed, but I want music, not some sport performance. Philips had a LP recording in the 70ies, Four Symphonies, conducted by Raymond Leppard, which is so much better than this, capturing the gallant style, the spirit of the rococo era. But that LP had only four symphonies..."