“This set is pure joy. These are period performances, but there's nothing hair-shirt about them. Pinnock caresses the slow movements with great affection, and throughout there's a sense of fun and enjoyment. What's exciting is the sweetness of the period-instrument sound and the suppleness and flexibility The English Concert brings to the music. They play, much of the time, as if it were chamber music, particularly in second subjects – the lyrical passages, that is, where they shape the phrases with a warmth and refinement you hardly expect in orchestral music. Timing is quietly witty, yet not at all contrived or artificial: it's the sort of expressive refinement that depends on listening to one another, not on the presence of a conductor. There's large-scale playing, too. The middle symphonies are especially good. The opening of the brilliant K133 (No 20) has a splendid swing, with its prominent trumpets, and a real sense of a big, symphonic piece. K184 (No 26) is duly fiery and its accents are neatly judged. K201 and K202 (Nos 29 and 30) are both very impressively done: an eloquent rather than a fiery account (though something of that too) of the opening movement of K201, with a particularly euphonious and shapely Andante. The finales of both are done with exceptional vitality and the rhythmic resilience that's characteristic of these performances. Pinnock's Jupiter (No 41) is truly outstanding. The first movement is duly weighty, but energetically paced, and its critical junctures timed with a keen sense of their role in the shape of the whole. In the Andante he draws an extraordinarily beautiful, almost sensuous sound from The English Concert, and the lines are moulded with tenderness. This, above all, is the quality that distinguishes Pinnock's recordings from all others, this natural and musical sound, deriving from the way the players are intently listening to one another; and it's fitting that it reaches its high point in the Jupiter. As for the finale: well, it's decidedly quick, giving the impression of a performance in which the orchestra is pressed to an extent that its ensemble playing is under stress, though it holds together. It's a very bold, outspoken reading, which leaves one gasping afresh at the music's originality. In short, quite outstanding performances, unfailingly musical, wholly natural and unaffected, often warmly expressive in the slow music and always falling very happily on the ear, with no trace of the harshness that some think is inevitable with period instruments. They are excellently recorded, with the properly prominent wind balance helping to characterise the sound world of each work.”
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