Cimarosa, I gather, composed more than 65 operas. He
was highly thought of in his day – his one opera to achieve a permanent
place in the repertoire, Il Matrimonio Segreto (1791), for instance,
enjoyed greater contemporary success than any of Mozart’s operas – but
a survival rate of one out of 65 does suggest that this success was
akin to the ephemeral fashions which characterise the world of pop,
where today’s star is tomorrow’s discard. In fact, he was to the opera
what Vivaldi had been to the concerto, in his case churning out two
operas a year with the same reliable mass-production technique as that
of his forebear in the concerto department.
I truly believe that in the past decade Naxos has rendered
far greater service to classical music than any of the big guns (who
are now paying the price for their enslavement to the star system).
It has explored the highways and byways of neglected repertoire as well
as the mainstream classics in recordings that are never less than decent
– and often superb – at very modest prices. However, some of their projects
have struck me as being plain dotty, and this is surely one of them
(the thought of three or four more volumes to come is mind-boggling).
A collection of Cimarosa overtures might be of interest to a few musicologists
specialising in the eighteenth century, but for this middle-of-the-road
listener, when you’ve heard one overture, you’ve heard the lot. Any
one played on its own would make a pleasant starter for a programme
of eighteenth-century music, but listening to them one after another
is a wearisome experience – hardly surprising given that the first four
and no fewer than five of the others are in the key of D major (of the
three remaining, two are in B flat and one is in F).
True, the music is bright, fluent and expertly crafted,
and the excellent Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia plays with sparkling elegance
in recordings of spacious clarity, but this must be a disc of very limited