The Mozart Year won't be taking place only in our concert halls and opera houses. Even stay-at-homes will have the option of immersing themselves in the totality of his art, and not just via radio and television.
At $29.95, Lincoln Center is supplementing its 19-month series of performances with a book, "The Compleat Mozart - A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart," edited by Neal Zaslaw and William Cowdery. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., its 500 pages include essays and brief discussions of every one of the 835 pieces.For true "compleat-ness," however, there is also the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe - "The New Mozart Edition" - a 120-volume printing of all his music in up-to-date critical editions. Interestingly, this project was launched in 1955, the year before the birthday bicentennial, meaning that it has taken longer to produce a scholarly edition of Mozart's music than it did for him to write it.
As for recordings, Philips has announced a similarly complete CD issue of the music, estimated in some quarters as destined to occupy approximately 12 feet of shelf space. I'm not sure that's the way to go for a lot of this music, but as it happens Philips already boasts about as distinguished a Mozart catalog as any company in the world.
If one wants all the symphonies, for example, their 12-CD set with Neville Marriner is as good as any around, with Telarc's still-in-progress Charles Mackerras cycle the nearest rival. On period instruments, Christopher Hogwood's Oiseau-Lyre survey provides a unique overview, with some performances (e.g., the Symphony No. 29) among the best ever recorded.
Otherwise I recommend sampling the individual recordings of Beecham - especially the newly reissued LPO recordings on EMI (still the finest Symphony No. 40 I know) - Tate (EMI) and Walter (CBS, including a glorious "Jupiter" Symphony).
Philips also looms large in the piano and violin concertos, the first via Alfred Brendel's set (again with Marriner), the second via Arthur Grumiaux's (with Colin Davis). For some, however, Brendel's intellect may exert less appeal in this music than Perahia's poetry (CBS) or Ashkenazy's elegance (London), or even the period tang of Bilson (DG, on fortepiano). By the same token, Anne-Sophie Mutter (DG and EMI) is a more-than-reasonable alternative in the violin concertos.
Perlman and Zukerman still seem to me the pairing of choice in the Concertone and Violin/Viola Sinfonia Concertante. For the horn concertos, try Barry Tuckwell (London) or the older but still unsurpassable Dennis Brain (EMI).
I am also partial to older recordings of the operas, again many of them deriving from EMI. Oldest of these are the mid-'30s Glyndebourne editions of "Cosi Fan Tutte" and, particularly, "Don Giovanni" (despite its piano recitatives, still in many ways the best). Ditto the 1937/38 Beecham "Magic Flute." Here, however, one must choose between EMI's own CD issue and Pearl's, the latter offering, as with their "Cosi" and "Don Giovanni," a closer approximation of the original 78s, including a fair amount of surface noise.
Among more modern recordings, I would call attention to the elegantly sung Karajan and Boehm "Cosis" (both EMI, the latter in stereo), the Giulini "Don Giovanni" (EMI), the Kleiber and Marriner "Marriage of Figaros" (London and Philips respectively) and the Boehm and Klemperer (EMI) "Magic Flutes," the first with and the second without the spoken dialog.
As he was in the symphonies, Marriner can likewise recommended almost across the board in the other instrumental-ensemble works, for example the serenades and string divertimenti. As can the Alban Berg Quartet in either of its cycles of the later Mozart string quartets (Teldec or EMI).
For the clavier sonatas, I am sorry to see Lili Kraus' CBS set still among the missing. However, once one gets used to his speedy tempos Anthony Newman (Newport Classic) offers some comparably stimulating insights on the fortepiano, even if Bilson (Hungaroton), Uchida (Philips) and Pires (Denon) remain markedly safer choices.
Stimulation is also a quality one associates with John Eliot Gardiner's recent recording of the Requiem (Philips), easily the best of the period renditions. Unless, of course, one prefers the "purified" text Hogwood adopts on his Oiseau-Lyre edition. For me, I am unregenerate enough where this music is concerned to confess a weakness for the overt drama of Barenboim (EMI, the earlier of his two recordings) and the inner strength of Davis, also on Philips and sounding better than ever on CD.
Which, except for the operas and some of the symphonies, seems to me true of the entire Mozart canon. Which may indicate, on the one hand, how much farther we've gone but, on the other, how much closer we've come.