The three childhood works on these discs — essentially keyboard sonatas with discreet violin support — go through the rococo motions pleasantly enough. Still, it would be hard to imagine more persuasive performances than we have here from the ever-rewarding Tiberghien-Ibragimova duo: delicate without feyness, rhythmically buoyant Tiberghien is careful not to let the ubiquitous Alberti figuration slip into auto-ripple and never seeking to gild the lily with an alien sophistication. It was Mozart, with his genius for operatic-style dialogues, who first gave violin and keyboard equal billing in his accompanied sonatas; and as in their Beethoven sonata cycle Wigmore Hall Live , Tiberghien and Ibragimova form a close, creative partnership, abetted by a perfect recorded balance in most recordings I know the violin tends to dominate.
Tiberghien and Ibragimova take the opening Allegro of the E minor Sonata, K, quite broadly, emphasising elegiac resignation over passionate agitation. But their concentrated intensity is compelling both here and in the withdrawn — yet never wilting — minuet. In the G major Sonata, K, rapidly composed for a Viennese concert mounted by Archbishop Colloredo just before Mozart jumped ship, Tiberghien and Ibragimova are aptly spacious in the rhapsodic introductory Adagio how eloquently Tiberghien makes the keyboard sing here , and balance grace and fire in the tense G minor Allegro.
Richard Wigmore May This disc brings together two musicians absolutely at the top of their game and with long experience of working together, as the easy dialogue between them amply demonstrates. High points abound: the way Tetzlaff withdraws his sound to a whisper in the long, sinewy lines of the Andante of K; the minor-key passage in the same movement, a tragedy no less profound for being fleeting.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum is the scintillating interaction of the two in the Presto of K That is especially evident in the visionary playing of Mark Steinberg with Mitsuko Uchida a recording that should be in every home, to my mind, disappointing only for the fact that there has been no follow-up , where every yearning key-change is luminously coloured. The reading of the earlier K is just as thoughtful, the opening movement achieving a more ethereal quality than Podger and Cooper, Vogt arguably the more imaginative keyboard player. And the variation-form finale on a simple rococo-ish theme is entrancing, each one piquantly characterised without exaggeration.
A delight from beginning to end. Harriet Smith February There have been several excellent recordings recently of these two works, mostly on period instruments. They demand playing that shows a grasp of their scale, playing that makes plain to the listener the shape, the functional character of the large spans of the music.
Paul Lewis and the Leopold String Trio excel in this, with their feeling for its structure and its tension: I am thinking primarily of the first movement of the G minor, and especially of its great climax at the end of the development section, which is delivered with a power and a sense of its logic that are compelling. It is in fact clear from the opening that this is a performance to reckon with, exemplified by its carefully measured tempo, its poise and its subtle handling of the balance between strings and piano.
There is a great deal of variety from Lewis in matters of touch and articulation, and much refinement of detail: the shades of meaning in the shifts between major and minor, and in the often chromatic harmony, do not escape him and his colleagues. The Andante is unhurried, allowing plenty of time for expressive detail; and the darker colours within the finale, for all its G major good cheer, are there too.
A real winner, this disc: warmly recommended. Stanley Sadie October How lucky we are that the two greatest pianists of their generation, Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu, are firm friends and that they have collaborated in recording two pieces that are arguably the most successful examples of their respective genres the Schubert is for piano duet; the Mozart for two pianos.
Whether it is in the perfectly crafted busy activity of the Allegro con spirito first movement of the Mozart or the introspective and soulful depth of the Schubert, the players find a unanimity of vision. One is not so much conscious of dialogue-like interplay, but more of them blending to play as one instrument.
The fine CBS recording has entirely captured the subtle inflections of detail, especially in the artists' irreproachable balance. Taken from a live performance at The Maltings, matters of ensemble, which usually defeat the Mozart Sonata, are judged to perfection. After the double bar of the slow movement Lupu and Perahia become lost in each other's thoughts and the effect is overwhelmingly beautiful.
James Methuen-Campbell March So if you can only afford one volume of this series, which would it be? I refuse to say. Hear them all. David Patrick-Stearns February Hoist with my own petard, I think. And, lo and behold, here is one. But permit me to join the chorus of acclaim for his elegance of phrasing, limpid tone quality captured in a demonstration-quality recording , tastefulness of nuance and ornamentation, and imaginative response to harmony and character.
Yet nothing is fetishised. Perfection — or something very close to it — is in the service of freedom. But how to apply that insight with discretion and variety, with humanity but without histrionics, is a rare gift. Blackshaw is one of the few who know how to make the music sing and dance without making a song and dance of it. Never have the 16 minutes of the first movement of the A major Sonata K passed more graciously, for me at least, and the acknowledgement of the Adagio marking for the fifth variation is exquisitely tasteful.
At the end of the C major Sonata K , how delectable is the tiny relaxation of pulse to allow the lowest register to speak. How subtly weighted are the fp accents in the slow movement of the F major, and how perfectly adapted to their harmonic environment. Even the wonderful Uchida sounds occasionally a fraction effortful by comparison. I can only hope for a set of the fantasies, rondos and miscellanea so that I can continue this paean.
David Fanning January By common consent, Mitsuko Uchida is among the leading Mozart pianists of today, and her recorded series of the piano sonatas won critical acclaim as it appeared and finally Gramophone Awards in and Here are all the sonatas, plus the Fantasia in C minor, K, which is in some ways a companion piece to the sonata in the same key, K This is unfailingly clean, crisp and elegant playing, that avoids anything like a romanticised view of the early sonatas such as the delightfully fresh G major, K On the other hand, Uchida responds with the necessary passion to the forceful, not to say angst-ridden, A minor Sonata, K Indeed, her complete series is a remarkably fine achievement, comparable with her account of the piano concertos.
The recordings were produced in the Henry Wood Hall in London and offer excellent piano sound; thus an unqualified recommendation is in order for one of the most valuable volumes in Philips's Complete Mozart Edition. Don't be put off by critics who suggest that these sonatas are less interesting than some other Mozart compositions, for they're fine pieces written for an instrument that he himself played and loved. One factor strikes immediately: there is not a whiff of bygone reverential, even obsequious attitudes to Mozart that still cast faint shadows among some pianists.
But — how about this for a 19th-century throwback? Effects are clear in, for example, the Fantasia, K The fractional hiatus between left and right underpins the harmony in the first and third bars; and a similar hiatus in the D major section 2'25" lends added expression to its contrasting calmness.
The staggered articulation is no mere anachronism. Point and purpose explained. It tightens harmonic tension and supports rather than accompanies treble lines. Be it high drama or lyrical contemplation, Pienaar scans phrases with a fluidity that releases the music from rhythmic inertia.
Ignore the odd insignificant pianistic smudge, because keyboard prowess is formidable. A much-mistreated piece emerges in a different light. Extend such thoughtful, profound probity to the whole set and you have interpretations where within the letter critically observed, a numinous potency breaks free. Momentous Mozart. Absolutely no margin for error or insufficiency, nor indeed for anything at all approximate or generalised. The smallest units have been thought about, judged in relation to before-and-after and the long term, and then released into the air, beyond the confines of the instrument.
And in the presto finale, where Brendel is choppy and rather slow, Goode is exciting as well as articulate and wonderfully adept at getting from one thing to another. He gives you the overview, too, often powerfully. While admiring the flux of intensities, dynamics, shapes and colours he sets before you in the Rondo, I wondered three-quarters of the way through whether the totality was going to achieve enough weight. The shorter pieces, enterprisingly chosen, set off the great works admirably.
Exceptional sound throughout — like the playing, quite out of the ordinary run. Stephen Plaistow June Period-instrument C minor Masses get better and better. Here that problem is largely avoided in a similarly grand acoustic: that, and the fact that the C minor Mass is a far more vocally orientated piece than the Requiem. The edition used of this tantalisingly incomplete work is that by Franz Beyer, published in Beyer also contrived an Agnus Dei from the music of the Kyrie but that is not recorded here.
As a package, the disc as a whole is certainly a winner; the Mass easily ranks alongside the period-instrument benchmarks. David Threasher December Purely on grounds of performance alone, this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years. John Butt brings to Mozart the microscopic care and musicological acumen that have made his Bach and Handel recordings so thought-provoking and satisfying. For all the textual emendations this engenders, the actual difference as far as the general listener is concerned is likely to be minimal; while we Requiemophiles quiver with delight at each clarified marking, to all intents and purposes what is presented here is the Mozart Requiem as it has been known and loved for more than two centuries.
The extremes of monumentality and meditativeness in the Requiem are represented perhaps by Bernstein and Herreweghe respectively; Butt steers a course equidistant between the two without compromising the work in its many moments of austerity or repose. The choir is of only 16 voices, from which the four soloists step out as required. Blend and tuning are of an accuracy all too rarely heard, even in this golden age of British choral singing.
The couplings are also carefully considered. The first is Misericordias Domini , an offertory composed in of which Mozart had a set of parts copied in While the Vienna concert is well documented, recent research has suggested that the Requiem or at least some of it was performed in a memorial to Mozart on December 10, — only five days after his death. David Threasher May Instrumentalists often become conductors, and great ones; yet the number of singers who have successfully taken up the baton is remarkably small; but on the evidence of this recording of Mozart's Requiem, the distinguished German tenor Peter Schreier who was born in ranks high in that select company.
The fact that he knows the score inside out and that he loves the music passionately, shines through the whole performance: I can think of few, if any, live or on records, that have struck me as being so totally committed to the spirit of this great work, or have made it sound like a finished masterpiece—despite the fact that Mozart did not live long enough to write the score out in full, and that it was completed by his pupil Sussmayr.
He is, as every singer should be, especially sensitive to the words, as well as to the music: one instance is his quite extraordinarily perceptive handling of the Recordare , in which the four soloists for once sing as if they really understand every word and inflection of the Latin text. The solo quartet is unusually fine and well balanced, and if I say that Margaret Price sings the prominent soprano part better than I can ever remember having heard it sung, this is in no way meant to disparage the equally beautiful singing of Trudeliese Schmidt, Francisco Araiza and Theo Adam.
Audio – Joanna Marsden
There is no shortage of recordings to compare this new one with. But, for me, Schreier's performance is a revelation, and his recording is the one that I would take to my desert island if I had the choice. Robin Golding March It has been very lucky on disc, and besides this delightful set there have been several other memorable recordings. The two sisters are gloriously sung — Schwarzkopf and Ludwig bring their immeasurable talents as Lieder singers to this sparkling score and overlay them with a rare comic touch.
Add to that the stylish singing of Alfredo Kraus and Giuseppe Taddei and the central quartet is unimpeachable. The pacing of this endlessly intriguing work is measured with immaculate judgement. When this, the latest, was produced it was universally hailed: as faithful a representation of the equivocal comedy as one could wish. Both Despina and Alfonso are played traditionally and with notable brio by Garmendia and Rivenq.
The delightful Persson and Vondung make a wholly believable and vocally attractive Fiordiligi and Dorabella, and deliver their music in ideal Mozartian tone and style. Similarly Lehtipuu is a charming and wide-eyed Ferrando and Pisaroni a warm-voiced and personal Guglielmo. They both woo with seductive charm. Alan Blyth June The recitative is sung with exemplary care over pacing so that it sounds as it should, like heightened and vivid conversation, often to electrifying effect. Ensembles, the Act 1 quartet particularly, are also treated conversationally, as if one were overhearing four people giving their opinions on a situation in the street.
As a whole, tempos not only seem right on their own account but also, all-importantly, carry conviction in relation to each other. Suave and appealing, delivered in a real baritone timbre, his Giovanni is as accomplished as any on disc. Alan Blyth August At last.
Philip Hope-Wallace, reviewing the original release, thought that it was worth a year at a foreign university. Well, I don't know if I'd go that far; but it is extremely difficult to choose between this and the Davis performance on Philips for non-stop momentum born of deep understanding of the musical expression of character and dramatic motivation. There is no doubt that the orchestral playing here is unsurpassed. From the depth and precision of the opening chords to the fugitive spirit of dance which no one else quite captures, the Philharmonia under Giulini become a second cast on their own.
So often the tiniest detail — the weight of a chord, the length of a silence, the linking curve of a phrase, the parting of the inner voices of the strings — stage-manages the drama more shrewdly than a good many theatre directors ever do. That having been said, I find Davis's pacing marginally more exciting. Giulini does, one feels, occasionally hold back to allow a voice its moment of glory; and the Act 1 finale hasn't quite that thrilling inexorability as the dance hurtles from form to chaos. The presence of Dame Joan Sutherland does have its drawbacks as well as its glory. Her Donna Anna is never quite a ''furia disperata''; the comparative weakness of her lower register and her lack of real impulse in phrasing make her as a weak match for Schwarzkopf's Elvira as Te Kanawa's Elvira is for Arroyo's superb Anna for Davis.
Only Haitink on EMI, it seems, with Vaness and Ewing, has a pair equally matched, at least in dramatic credibility: Glyndebourne's team casting is, of course, its great strength. Schwarzkopf's Elvira, together with the orchestral playing, is the glory of this Don Giovanni. Listen to their relationship in ''In quali eccessi'': it could hardly be more potent, more intensely Mozartian. She understands the rhythmic and melodic psychology of her every second on stage. So does this Don Giovanni: though Waechter's thrusting physicality and diabolic laughter leave us just short of the sheer fascination of Wixell's hunter Davis or Allen's chilling seducer Haitink.
The casting of the smaller parts doesn't make for such vibrant theatre as in either Davis or Haitink; but the care originally lavished on the production by Walter Legge is celebrated in remastering which cuts out glare and distortion, while losing none of the depth and perspective which belong uniquely to Giulini's reading. Hilary Finch December By general consent, the performances of Don Giovanni in Sir Peter Hall's production at Glyndebourne in were considered profoundly satisfying, and therefore a special achievement in a work so hard to bring off both on stage and on the gramophone.
Now that achievement is mostly confirmed in a recording that is definitely the peer of those that have gone before and possibly their superior in several respects. Giovanni is certainly the most recorded of Mozart's operas, so the work must be much in demand among collectors who, like Giovanni in his search for women, seem unsatisfied by the available choice.
They ought to find the new version solving many of their difficulties. In the first place, as with so many recommendable ones of operas these days, it has the best of both worlds: the experience of recent stage performances refined under studio circumstances — including one significant change of cast. Then it has in Haitink as cogent a conductor as any who have gone before. He is as much aware as Bohm of the importance of rhythmic impetus and natural flow, also of vital detail — such as the wind gurglings in ''Meta di vuoi''.
Tempos, with the possible exception of a sluggish ''Vedrai carino'', are well judged, and the dramatic impact of Giovanni's damnation scene is quite as earth-moving as with Davis Philips or Bohm.
A special word of praise must be given for the handling of the recitative, which really has the feeling of a live performance and is accompanied with just the right amount of embellishment by Martin Isepp. Many appoggiaturas are now allowed by Glyndebourne. This is a cast dominated, as much as was its live Glyndebourne predecessor, by its protagonist. Thomas Allen conveys, by voice alone the saturnine quality of his Giovanni, even without the help of his leering, daemonic portrayal.
Yet the charm is there as well, both in a seductive Serenade excellent mandolin and a confident, easily declaimed Champagne so-called aria. Van Allan makes the character a likeable ruffian, and sings the part as well as any rival on record. I particularly like the way he distinguishes in recitative between asides and conversation by a clever use of mezza voce , a technique he also uses in ensembles. The partnership between him and Allen has become intuitive through the experience of the Glyndebourne run, and is much appreciated.
Lionel Salter has pointed out in the past the difficulty in deciding the precise situation of the two donne. On this occasion both are very positive ladies. Carol Vaness's Anna, so imposing in the theatre, is both bold and impassioned, hardly an inexperienced girl yet properly outraged by Giovanni's behaviour. Her singing is forceful and risk-taking, not so smooth and efficient as Margaret Price for Solti Decca , sometimes glaring at the top, but more responsive to emotional predicaments. Vaness is an important soprano whom we shall hear more of on record.
Maria Ewing is the newcomer to the cast I referred to earlier, but you would hardly know it from her involving, often poignant singing, particularly in the recitative before ''Mi tradi'', itself sung with the runs made part of the worried expression. Her tone sometimes has a roughish edge to it, which rather impairs the Mask trio, and that may be because the role lies a little high for a voice poised between mezzo and soprano. You won't hear the full, creamy tone found in either of Te Kanawa's Elviras for Davis and Maazel , but I think the dimension of hurt pride and intense determination tells us a lot about Elvira that more placid, better-equipped singers, such as Zylis-Gara Bohm , can miss.
Mellifluous is the word for his delivery of both arias, the voice lighter and smoother than Schreier's Bohm , sweeter too, but less positive, and not negligible in characterization Hall portrays him as rather elderly. Elizabeth Gale's Zerlina, impetuous and confused on stage, conveys those attributes on record, but the voice itself hasn't the charm of Popp Solti.
John Rawnsley is a Masetto very well worth Zerlina keeping, with more obvious presence than most. Kavrakos sounds a little too gentle for the Statute, ideal though for the opening scene's Commendatore. As in all Glyndebourne performances, the sum is often greater than the parts, and the cast works together as a team better than any save Walter Legge's assembly for Giulini HMV.
For that, for Haitink's interpretation, for the most lively delivery of the recitative since Giulini's version, and for at least four of the principals, I would make this my Giovanni choice, not to overlook a well-balanced, unobtrusive and therefore typically EMI recording. Bohm, whose version is about to be reissued by DG, may in some respects be more mature and magisterial than Haitink, but this theatre recording is hampered by stage noises, while Solti, in contrast, sounds studio-bound, and his version spreads over four records. No, I shall now keep Haitink close by Giulini at medium price for regular listening: both take you deep into this opera's world of dark tensions and make you aware of the subtleties of orchestral texture and the symphonic stature of the musical forms.
Alan Blyth July In the context of his production Kent rarely puts a foot wrong. But his assumption of Giovanni is completely convincing. His most important relationship, as Finley puts it in one of the two bonus features, is with Leporello, each character both irritated by and dependent on the other. Finley sings as well as he acts, apart from an oddly unhoneyed Serenade.
At the end, the besotted Elvira touches the corpse of Giovanni, who lies in the same position as the murdered Commendatore — a nice touch. The singing is fine and the OAE play like angels. Richard Lawrence August That is all amply confirmed in this finely balanced, intimate recording. In the Overture and some of the early numbers, Christie is inclined to clip his rhythms with accents almost brusque, but once the Pasha and Konstanze appear on the scene, he settles into an interpretation that evinces the elevated sensibility that informs his Rameau, Handel — and indeed Die Zauberflote — on disc, strong on detail but never at the expense of the whole picture.
But then he has by his side a Konstanze to stop all hearts. In the great Act 2 Quartet and the last-act duet, where Mozart peers into his musical future, she is just as moving and inspires Bostridge to equal heights of tender inflexion. At first you may, as I did, find Bostridge lightweight for Belmonte. Like her mistress in her role, Petibon gives us a Blonde to make us forget just about every other soprano in the part on disc.
She plays with and smiles through her opening aria with a delightful freedom of technique and expression, nothing daunted by its tessitura, even adding decorations to the already-demanding vocal line the whole recording is literally adorned by small embellishments, naturally delivered. She maintains this high standard throughout in a winning performance. Christie includes all the recently rediscovered music, as does Gardiner, but the choice of dialogue is markedly different, with Christie opting for a shorter script than Gardiner; Hogwood includes most of all.
Its delivery is easy and idiomatic. As I have suggested, the recording is excellent. Christie is now my recommendation if you want a period-instrument recording, with Bohm still there as a benchmark on modern instruments. Alan Blyth March Unless and until further research proves otherwise, this version will remain the definitive recording of Mozart's early masterpiece for a long time to come. That is not to say I shall make a bonfire of the sets listed above, each of which has special features to commend it, merely that Gardiner—who has written how much he owes to Mackerras and Harnoncourt in finding the right route to interpreting the work—has given us a reading that seems to accord as closely as can at present be discerned with both a performance of Mozart's time of which he gives ample evidence in his accompanying notes though nothing is conclusively proved and one that sounds thoroughly authentic in the best sense.
Those who attended any of the three live performances from which this set has been made will confirm that they were evenings of thrilling music-drama. On those occasions Gardiner experimented with mixtures of the various plausible arrangements of the existing music. Then at a further concert, he performed alone the fullest version possible of the opera's final scenes, a fascinating experience, though one that in context of a stage performance might tire both singers and audience alike. Here we have the best of all worlds. In the main recording we have a composite version of the surviving music for Munich In practice Gardiner's choices seem the right ones.
Thus we have the longer, more elaborate ''Fuor del mar'', the shorter of the sacrificial scenes, the briefer of the two brass versions of Neptune's pronouncement and the ballet music. All were cut by Mozart before the premiere but make sense in the context of a recording. In the appendices on the end of CD2 are bits of recitative from Act 2, the longer of the sacrificial scenes, the longer of the brass versions of Neptune's pronouncement plus the setting with wind—marvellous , and the scene in Act 3 for Elettra that replaced her aria.
This complete recording minus only the simpler versions of ''Fuor del mar'' and the shortest version of Neptune's music offers the intending buyer three, very well-filled discs. So much for the quite important nuts and bolts. All this thoroughness of approach would be of little avail were the performance in any way inadequate, but Gardiner's reading is in almost every respect profoundly satisfying. As he avers, he came to the piece having traversed on disc this work's two great progenitors Jephtha and Iphigenie en Tauride , both operas about parental sacrifice and obviously influential on Idomeneo.
Then he brings to the work, as does his orchestra, the experience and knowledge gained through recording the Mozart concertos and late symphonies on period instruments. In matters of phrasing, articulation, melodic shaping, they here benefit from their previous achievement: this is a taut, raw, dramatic reading, yet one that fully allows for tenderness and warmth.
You can also hear there the advantage of the right-sized band and choir.
Listen, too, to the control of dynamics in the great Act 3 Quartet. Throughout Gardiner and his team recognize what he indicates in another note, the fact that Mozart conceived the work as through-written without any breaks in the piece's forward movement. As at the Queen Elizabeth Hall this creates the correct sense of internal tensions within external formality. Once or twice in Act 1 I felt that Gardiner's penchant for fierce accentuation was getting the better of him and calling attention to the podium rather than to the music, but the impression soon passed and one listened to the new revelations of the reading without let or hindrance.
Tempos are admirably judged. Although some roles have been as well or better sung on rival sets, none is so consistently cast. Hillevi Martinpelto, the Swedish soprano who made such an impression in the last BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year, is a properly impetuous Elettra who has no trouble with either the eloquent ''Idol mio'' or crazed side of the character and whose vocal allure will take her far. Even so the interpretative honours go to Anthony Rolfe Johnson's deeply felt, mellifluously sung and technically assured Idomeneo and to Anne Sofie von Otter's ardent, impetuous, and in the end touching, Idamante: the sacrificial scene between father and son is rightly the moving centrepiece of the whole opera, where the two singers' skill in recitative is finely exemplified.
Nigel Robson copes splendidly with the concerned Arbace, most touching in his recitative before his second aria usually omitted and then sure-voiced in the difficult divisions in that aria itself. Glenn Winslade is a firm High Priest but Cornelius Hauptmann's bass is too woolly for the deus ex machina. As I have implied, the playing of the English Baroque Soloists is as accomplished and fluent as ever and the balance of the very immediate recording between them and the soloists is just right.
Some edits are just audible and I had the feeling that some of the set numbers were recorded without an audience present, but that doesn't detract from the sense of unity and vividness available from recording a work, by and large, in the right order thus ensuring histrionic truth.
The Bohm DG , in no way authentic, remains the work of a great Mozartian, and the Pritchard EMI is a historic document, recalling the early days of rediscovery in this field. But those who want the full Idomeneo story and a profoundly satisfying musical experience must have this new set.
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Christoph Strehl is supple vocally and dignified dramatically as Arbace. The unique and marvellous qualities of Idomeneo are faithfully and satisfyingly captured on disc and the result bears close comparison with the benchmark versions by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir Charles Mackerras.
David Vickers January The catalogue of Figaro recordings is a long one, and the cast lists are full of famous names. In this new version there is only one principal with more than a half-dozen recordings behind him, and some have none at all. It is a commentary on the times, on the astuteness of the casting here and on the capacity of a strong conductor to make the whole so much more than the sum of its parts that this version can stand comparison with any, not only for its grasp of the drama but also for the quality of its singing.
It is, of course, a period-instrument recording, and to my ears rather more evidently so than many of those under John Eliot Gardiner.
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The string tone is pared down and makes quite modest use of vibrato, the woodwind is soft-toned but happily prominent. The voices are generally lighter and fresher-sounding than those on most recordings of the opera and the balance permits more than usual to be heard of Mozart's instrumental commentary on the action and the characters. This is a live performance, made during two concert performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London last summer plus, I imagine, some studio retakes: there are a few points where the background is hushed beyond credibility for a public performance.
The recitative is done with quite exceptional life and feeling for its meaning and dramatic import, with a real sense, during much of it, of lively and urgent conversation, especially in the first half of the work. At a number of points later on, particularly in Act 3, it becomes over-indulgent and excessively drawn-out, and such passages as the one around the trial scene would, I think, become quite tiresome on repeated hearings—the fact that the audience are clearly relishing it, and laughing in places where apparently nothing is happening though doubtless it was on the QEH stage , doesn't make it better listening at home.
Terfel is quite a deep bass-baritone with enough darkness in his voice to sound pretty menacing in ''Se vuol ballare'' as well as bitter in ''Aprite un po' quegli occhi''; it is an alert, mettlesome performance—and he also brings off a superlative ''Non piu andrai'', done with tremendous spirit to its rhythms and richly and pointedly coloured.
Hagley, the much and justly admired Susanna in the recent Glyndebourne production, offers a reading of spirit and allure. The interplay between her and the woodwind in ''Venite inginocchiatevi'' is a delight, and her cool but heartfelt ''Deh vieni'' is very beautiful. Once or twice her intonation seems marginally under stress but that is the price one pays for singing with so little vibrato, and it's worth it.
I enjoyed Hillevi Martinpelto's unaffected, youthful-sounding Countess; both arias are quite lightly done, with a very lovely, warm, natural sound in ''Dove sono'' especially. Some may prefer a more polished, sophisticated reading, of the traditional kind, but I have no doubt that this is closer to what Mozart would have wanted and expected. Rodney Gilfry provides a Count with plenty of fire and authority, firmly focused in tone; the outburst at the Allegro assai in ''Vedro mentr'io sospiro'' is formidable.
Pamela Helen Stephen's Cherubino sounds charmingly youthful and impetuous; ''Voi che sapete'' is taken a good deal quicker than usual, and with a touch of comedy, and benefits from it. If I am commenting more on characterization than on actual singing as such, that is because this is so much more a realization of the work than simply a performance of its music. Yet it does not quite have the opera-house aura that some Figaro performances on record achieve. Older readers will think, first, of the famous Erich Kleiber set, where you feel you are in the stalls, eager for the rise of the curtain, the moment you hear the overture begin.
The Ostman version has something of that, too. But certainly there is no want of dramatic life in Gardiner's direction. His tempos are marginally quicker than most, and the orchestra often speaks eloquently of the drama: it rages at the beginning of ''Cosa sento? The finale here is paced in an original and effective way. I thought the fandango in the Act 3 finale marred by coarse dynamic treatment. The Act 4 finale has many good things—note the prominent giggling viola phrase where Figaro at last realizes that the 'Countess' is Susanna in disguise and the apt, unexaggerated but very effective, timing of the denouement: though I wish Gardiner had not risked sentimentalizing the Andante of the Count's plea for forgiveness by taking it so very slowly.
I also wished he would not taper, dynamically, the phrase-ends in the overture, which sounds to me weak-kneed and has no imaginable historical justification. He has his singers include a lot of appoggiaturas, but not with much consistency though without the wanton promiscuity of the advice in the New Mozart Edition score : sometimes a phrase and its response are treated differently.
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There are a few little oddities in the Italian pronunciation. His connection with the piano was so strong that his mother had to close the piano and limit the time Saint-Saens could play, as she was worried her child could become obsessed with the piano. As a result, young Saint-Saens started crying and did not stop only until the piano was opened again. He composed his first composition at the mere age of 3 — 2 years younger than the age of Mozart when he wrote his first piece.
Music was not his only interest. He was interested and wrote articles about literature, philosophy and sciences and especially astronomy. He was a poet and a traveler. In the transcription, and despite the differences between the dynamic range of the flute and the violin in their different registers, I have tried to minimize the changes that were done and to stay as loyal to the original as possible. The changes were made mainly to guarantee the best performance with a flute.
The piece is a great challenge for every flutist and I am very pleased to present my transcription through this wonderful edition. I would like to thank my former professor and mentor — flutist Jacques Zoon and pianist Cameron Roberts, who helped me bring this transcription to its first performance. Terms and Conditions.
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