The Gran Partita for 13 winds (or 12 winds plus double-bass substituting for contrabassoon) is one of Mozart’s masterpieces-among-masterpieces. There are some wonderful recent recordings of the work; my two personal favorites are a recording by Octophoros (top Belgian and other players on period instruments) and another by alumni from the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. Interestingly, these two were conducted by Bart Kuijken (Octophoros) and Marcel Moyse (Marlboro), both eminent players of the flute, a wind instrument that Mozart chose to omit from the Gran Partita.
Another very interesting recording just surfaced (link below). This is a 1945 recording of George Szell conducting members of the NY Philharmonic at a performance given at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most entertaining are the program notes, which include this gem:
Playing a woodwind instrument for long periods is
a strain on the lungs of the player. In symphonic
works the woodwinds speak alternately, and rarely
for long stretches of time. In wind serenades, however,
the instruments speak continually. There was no
harm in this for the players in Mozart’s time, because
music of the divertimento and serenade type was not
performed attacca, but in pauses determined by the
nature of the festivities of which the music was a part,
for instance, the sequence of the courses offered in
the collation. As the Museum’s cafeteria does not yet
excel in rococo refreshments, we beg the indulgence
of the audience for intervals longer than usual between
the movements of the Serenade.
The Gran Partita starts at 1 hour 1 minute.
Winds of the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society conducted by George Szell.