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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concert Arias for Soprano

Mia speranza adorata!, K416 (1783)
Voi avete un cor fedele, K217 (1775)
No, che son sei capace, K419 (1783)
Ma che vi fece, o stelle, K368 (1781)
Misera, dove son!, K369 (1781)
A questo seno deh vieni, K374 (1781)
Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!, K418 (1783)
Ah se in ciel, benigne stele, K538 (1788)
Edita Gruberová (soprano)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Rec. 27 and 19 June 1991, Sofiensaal, Vienna
ELATUS 2564 60338-2 [66.09]

 

Mozart composed more than fifty arias in addition to those found within his operas. He did so at every stage of his career, and always for one of two reasons. The majority were conceived as 'insertion arias' in an existing opera by himself or someone else, in order to suit the needs of a particular singer. The other examples were genuine 'concert arias', intended to display a singer's prowess in the context of a concert performance, while still retaining an operatic style. The great majority of these marvellous pieces were composed for the soprano voice, but as this interesting compilation shows, those for tenor are distinctive too. Together they form a significant part of his creative work. Nor should their relative neglect deflect from the excellence of the music, which is thoroughly worthy of Mozart's genius.

This music remains just as much a showpiece for singer today as it was in Mozart’s own time. This fact is palpable when listening to Edita Gruberová’s performances before a spellbound and well behaved audience at two concerts in Vienna in the summer of 1791, which no doubt formed part of the Mozart bicentenary tribute.

The sound is full-bodied but details emerge well. If there is a criticism to be made, it is the common one that the voice is too prominent in the perspective of the recording. Perhaps this priority reflects the concept of the ‘star singer’ giving a ‘star turn’.

Gruberová has achieved a notable reputation for her vocal virtuosity, and that reputation is justified here. Her security of tone is palpable, and her ability to achieve chains of high notes is astonishing. Evidently the audience at the Sofiensaal though so too, since nearly half a minute of their applause is recorded to follow each individual number. On CD this does become tiresome, so the listener will need to have the remote control nearby.

Full texts and translations are included in the nicely produced booklet, albeit in extremely small print. There are some useful introductory notes, which are written in chronological order of composition, which is of course quite different the order of the performances as recorded.

As for the music, it is as glorious as we would expect of Mozart. In his operas he preferred to collaborate as closely as possible with his singers, to shape his music to their particular strengths and characteristics. In concert arias this tended to be even more strongly the case, of course.

The majority of Gruberová’s programme dates from the early 1780s, just before and just after Mozart’s move to Vienna. For example, ‘Ma che vi fece’, K368, was written in Munich for Elisabeth Wendling, the Elettra in his opera seria Idomeneo. It has all the characteristics of that character’s music in the opera, and was intended in gratitude as a showpiece for the singer, which in Gruberová’s sparkling performance it certainly is.

However, the most important historical link to emerge in this programme is with Aloisia Lange (née Weber), for whom four of these arias were composed. Mozart first encountered her, and fell in love with her by all accounts, in Mannheim in 1777, while en route for Paris. Four years later, he found that she and her family had moved to Vienna. After his bold decision to leave the employ of Archbishop Colloredo and to become a freelance musician, he lodged with the Weber family, and in due course married Constanze, Aloisia’s younger sister.

These arias are magnificent examples of Mozart’s art. The first three of them were intended as insertion arias in operas by Pasquale Anfossi. In a letter to his father (dated 2nd July 1783), he reports of K418 and K419: ‘Nothing except my arias was well received; the second, which is a bravura piece, had to be repeated.’ From this it is evident that Mozart valued these arias, and so should we, since they entirely match the quality of those he composed within his own operas.

Terry Barfoot

 



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