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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Così fan tutte

Fiordiligi – Teresa Stich-Randall (soprano)
Dorabella – Janis Martin (mezzo-soprano)
Ferrando – Werner Krenn (tenor)
Guglielmo – Victor Conrad Braun (baritone)
Don Alfonso – Carlos Feller (bass)
Despina – Adriana Martino (soprano)
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro RAI di Roma/Peter Maag
Recorded live in Rome, 13 June 1967
ARTS 43035-2 [2 CDs: 80.23 + 68.50]



Arts are producing some fine discs devoted to the memory of Peter Maag. I was admiring of their Mozart symphonies box, in which Maag displayed so many of the characteristics that made his performances of this composer’s works so treasurable. And now they resurrect this live (the audience is quiet in the main but there is some applause) 1967 broadcast of a work he longed to record commercially. It will have to stand, by proxy, as the recording he never lived to make.

The recording quality suffers a mite as it’s rather vertical and lacking in bloom and there are some small cuts – in two or three of the arias and some of the recitatives – but we do also have some treasurable Mozartian voices and a stylish band under Maag’s sure direction. Stich-Randall had recorded a fine Così with Moralt in 1956 with inter alia Waldemar Kmentt as Ferrando and Walter Berry as Guglielmo. Here she starts somewhat slowly and is not always in the absolute best of voices – her heyday was just past – but by Act 1 Scene V’s Quintet (Discrivermi ogni giorno) her colour and soft shading is still exquisitely intact, and few could do it better than she. But it’s evident even later on – see Come scoglio - that she can be rather squally and the voice hardens appreciably under pressure. The Dorabella is Janis Martin, a Senta of renown and a sensitive artist. Much of that applies equally here but she can also be rather shrill (Smanie implacabili). Werner Krenn is Ferrando and he was a proven Mozartian. His Un’ aura amorosa is fine, though it could do with a shade more lightness in the delivery, but he is very attractive and not at all throaty in his duet with Stich-Randall (Fra gli amplessi) and even better in his ardent singing of the recitative Barbara, perché fuggi? Victor Conrad Braun’s Guglielmo is redoubtable and aptly complex – his voice always had something of an Italian sound to it anyway so he is good casting - whilst the Don Alfonso of Carlos Feller is well sung. Adriano Martino is Despina and she despatches Una donna a quindici ani with élan if maybe a shade too much metal in her voice.

The orchestra plays with spirit and no little subtlety (horns are first class, flutes not far behind). Maag moulds the recitatives with real verve and buoyancy, the comic business is potent but not artificial, but it’s perhaps the ensembles that score most highly in this performance. They are its high water mark. Obviously it can hardly be considered a contender in the marketplace. But admirers of conductor and singers will rightly want to make its acquaintance and savour its attractive features.

Jonathan Woolf

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