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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Grabmusik, K42/K35a (original 1767 version) [18:14]
Bastien und Bastienne, K50 (original 1768 version, plus second, 1769, version of “Diggi, daggi”) [48:10]
Anna Maria Richter (soprano) (Angel, Bastienne); Alessandro Fisher (Bastien); Darren Jeffrey (Colas); Jacques Imbrailo (Soul)
Classical Opera/Ian Page.
rec. Blackheath Concert Halls, London, 2018

A fascinating coupling. Ian Page and his Classical Opera and The Mozartists have been working relentlessly on “Mozart 250” since 2015 and fruits have included a wonderful La Finta semplice at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in June (review), a 1758 Retrospective at the Wigmore Hall in January (review); not to mention a splendid Haydn Applausus at Cadogan Hall (review). In fact, Page has been shedding light on deserving but under-rated masterpieces for some time: one remembers his Arne Artaxerxes at the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House in 2009 (review).

The disc begins with Grabmusik in its original 1767 version (a later version from the 1770s adds a final recitative and chorus), a dialogue between Soul and Angel (baritone Jacques Imbrailo and soprano Anna Maria Richter, respectively). Imbrailo is superb in his aria “Felsen, spoltet euren Rachen” (Rocks, split asunder), a movement that takes the baritone up into tenor territory; the drama of the orchestral contribution is remarkable, as is the cleanliness of the string scales. Anna Maria Richter is blissfully pure in her aria “Betracht des Herz und frage mich” (Consider this heart and ask yourself”; the concluding duet, “Jesu, was hab’ ich getan?” (Jesus, what have I done?) finds the voices beautifully blended. Throughout Page's performances, the multifarious moods and colours of Mozart's scores come vividly alive.

The main meat, though, is the delightful Bastien und Bastienne, composed by Mozart at the tender age of 12. A famous recording on Philips used three soloists from the Vienna Boys Choir, but it is good – better – to hear it with three properly differentiated voices, a soprano, tenor and bass-baritone. It is the only of Mozart’s operas to have been written for performance in a private house as opposed to a theatre; the manuscript disappeared until the 1980s, when it was rediscovered in Krakow. This recording is the first of the original version, as performed some 250 years ago.

The piece Bastien und Bastienne is a work of the utmost concision: as Page points out, over half of the arias last for less than two minutes. The plot is simple: two bucolic lovers, Bastien and Bastienne; Bastien has been lured away from Bastienne by a city-dweller and seeks out Colas, a fortune-teller and magician. There is eventual reuniting of the lovers once it gets to the point at which Bastien threatens suicide.

The music is simply beautiful, and performed at the highest level. The orchestra is superbly led by Page, who lavishes attention on the smallest details. The Bastienne of Anna Maria Richter is all that one would expect after her contribution to Grabmusik, her aria “Wenn mein Bastien in Scherze” (When my Bastien as a joke) begins in gloriously lyrical fashion; it goes on to be far more playful, garnished with some fabulous vocal trills. As Bastien, Alessandro Fisher is light-voiced, ardent and convincing, as his “Meiner Liebsten schönen Wangen,” (My beloved’s lovely cheeks), the only place in the work that uses a pair of flutes, proves. The booklet notes make a parallel between Bastien’s near-suicide and that of Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, reminding us that both come from the Singspiel tradition. Colas, here Darren Jeffrey, is gifted an aria to nonsense (pseudo-magical) words, “Tätzel, Brätzel, Schober, Kober” that is possibly Bastien und Bastienne’s most famous aria (the piece is also known for its “pre-echo” of the opening theme of Beethoven’s “Eroica”). Jeffrey enjoys every moment of this, matching the orchestral fire provided by Page.

There is an Appendix: the Salzburg revision of “Tätzel, Brätzel, Schober, Kober” as “Diggi daggi, Schurry, murry” coming after the glorious trio that closes the Singspiel, an ending of three minutes bathed in serene joy.

The whole enterprise is beautifully presented, with full librettos and English translations; the recording is very realistic. Both pieces use the Bärenreiter Neue Mozart-Ausgabe.

Colin Clarke



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