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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K384.
Yelda Kodalli (soprano) Konstanze; Paul Groves (tenor) Belmonte; Désirée Rancatore (soprano) Blonde; Peter Rose (bass) Osmin; Lynton Atkinson (tenor) Pedrillo; Oliver Tobias (speaker) Bassa Selim; Scottish Chamber chorus and Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras.
Telarc CD-80544 [131'47] [DDD]
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This is a curious issue. The cover proclaims this is 'as heard in the motion picture Mozart in Turkey'. The overall production seems to be a something of a hotch-potch (the resolution of the scan on page 15 of the booklet is, unprofessionally, wrong, for example) and the same applies to the performance as a whole. As always, Mackerras' approach is carefully considered, and he even goes so far as to provide an accompanying performance manifesto. The Turkish instruments he makes a point of including in the orchestra appear not only in the overture and in the chorus of praise for the Bassa, but also (stunningly unconvincingly) in Pedrillo and Osmin's Vivat Bacchus. In both the Overture and the chorus of praise, Singt der grossen Bassa Lieder, there is an ugly recording balance which shoves the brass right into the listener's face. In fact, the recording is uncharacteristically slack from the producer/engineer team of James Mallinson and Michael Hatch.

Any praise this set deserves must be reserved for the orchestra, who try to instil verve and style at all times. The soloists, however, seem less concerned with style, drama or even (sometimes) notes. Belmonte (Paul Groves) obviously has the perils of his higher register on his mind in his opening aria rather than when he will next see Konstanze. When we get to hear her (Ach, ich liebte), she is tremulous of voice and thin of tone and she is audible tired by her second act Traurigkeit wird mir zum Lose. She is (unforgivably) upstaged by Blonde (Désirée Rancatore) in Act Two's Welche Wonne, welche Lust!. Lynton Atkinson's Pedrillo simply cannot deliver his Frisch zum Kampfe!. His tuning is particularly wayward here. The list goes on - there is very little sense of Osmin's gloating at O, wie will ich triumpheren (he also lacks the full basso profondo of any self-respecting Osmin) and (the final insult) Pedrillo is upstaged by the accompanying string pizzicati in In Mohrenland gefangen wir.

Beecham's 1956 account on EMI provided the yardstick performance, which remains uneclipsed to this day. If you are new to this piece, I beg you to search this out and let Sir Thomas be your unerring guide. Otherwise, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants on Erato 3984-25490-2 provide a refreshing alternative.

Colin Clarke



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