Fritz Busch, Glyndebourne
and Mozart seem inextricably linked
in the annals of recorded sound, and
this invaluable document from Naxos
shows exactly why. The cast work together
miraculously; Busch’s pacing uniformly
feels ‘right’; Ward Marston, as Producer
and Audio Restoration Engineer, moves
mountains to provide sound that is clear,
uncluttered, transparent yet with body
and space. As always, Malcolm Walker’s
notes are a model of their kind.
As was common practice
at the time, a piano is used to accompany
the recitatives (not as difficult to
attune one’s ears to as one might think).
Text being possibly not as sacrosanct
as it is nowadays, there are some cuts
– the duettino in Act I between Ferrando
and Guglielmo (‘Al fato dan legge’);
three arias in Act II (‘Tradito, schernito
dal perfido cor’, ‘Ah, lo veggio’ and
‘E amore un ladroncell’); plus a couple
of other small excisions. What emerges,
though, is a performance of the most
perfect Mozartian grace, charm and wit.
One would be hard-pressed to find a
better cast for this opera in any period.
The Fiordiligi and
Dorabella are well-differentiated. Their
duet ‘Ah guarda, sorella’ (No. 4, track
5, CD1), demonstrates this amply. Fiordiligi
is first to enter, and Souez (after
some suave violin playing) sings with
a light, almost soubrette tone. Helletsgruber,
entering on the dominant (and separated
by a lovely clarinet phrase), is more
edgy, yet still cheeky. Their brief
‘cadenzas’ together at the end are delightful
(on the word ‘amore’, funnily enough).
Helletsgruber on occasion can be wobbly
(the Act II Duetto ‘Prenderò
quell brunettino’ furnishes a prime
example, also ‘Il core di dono’ Act
II, where the excess vibrato robs the
line of its Affekt); Souez is
less than 100% confident in the large
leaps of ‘Come scoglio’. Later, though,
her ‘Per pièta, ben mio, perdona’
would have stopped the show had this
been live, the large intervals this
time posing no problem. Yet the whole
is much greater than the sum of the
parts (the same sentiment encapsulates
the entire recording, actually).
The well-known names
of Heddle Nash and Willi Domgraf-Fassbänder
take the parts of Ferrando and Guglielmo,
respectively. Nash, an English lyric
tenor, is capable of great tenderness.
The way he floats his voice in ‘Un’Aura
amorosa’ (Act 1) is remarkable. Domgraf-Fassbänder
is a firm-voiced Guglielmo.
John Brownlee is the
superb Don Alfonso. He has a nicely
rounded tone but also has great presence.
His staccati in his brief aria ‘Vorrei
dir’ are perfectly placed, his comedic
timing excellent (‘Morti … non son’).
The delightful role
of Despina is taken by Irene Eisinger,
who is the soubrette par excellence
(no surprise to learn her repertoire
also included Papagena and Susanna).
Recitatives roll off her tongue deliciously
(‘Che vita maledetta’, Act I Scene 8,
for example) and her pitching is delightful
Try her Act II aria ‘Una donna a quindici
anni’ during which her high notes are
so perfectly placed they almost ‘pop’.
She is wonderful, with just the right
lightness of approach.
Busch’s Mozartian credentials
are well-documented and his sure hand
steers the opera with a gorgeous sense
of inevitability. The overture contains
many of his strengths in microcosm,
with the Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra
in cracking form. One may find the Andante
slow these days, but the various
solos are marvellously phrased - and
how affectionately shaded is the opera’s
visiting card (which is to later set
the words ‘Così fan tutte’) just
before the bustling Allegro kicks in.
Here it is not difficult to imagine
the atmosphere in the theatre, pre-curtain
up. Ensembles work magnificently, balanced
and paced miraculously by the conductor.
The joy and spirit of Mozart’s marvellous
work are fully on show here. Musically,
this is a wonderful achievement and,
in sonic terms, it comes up bright as
a button in Ward Marston’s restoration.
see also review
by Paul Shoemaker