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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro K492 [4.17]
Bastien und Bastienne K50 [1.47]
Der Schauspieldirektor K486 [4.11]
Lucio Silla K135 [7.38]
Così fan tutte K588 [4.41]
La finta giardiniera K196 [7.15]
Die Entführung aus dem Serail K384 [5.24]
Il re pastore K208 [3.28]
Idomeneo K366 [5.00]
La clemenza di Tito K621 [5.01]
Don Giovanni K527 [5.47]
Die Zauberflöte K620 [6.50]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Colin Davis
rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, 1999. DDD

Recommendations don’t come much easier for a critic than this set of overtures. Everything sounds right, from the warmth of the recording – though definition and clarity is ever-present – through the individuality of the woodwind contributions, internal sectional balance to corporate dynamism. This is matched with the magisterial conducting of Colin Davis, ever alive theatrically. 
The evidence is all around. Listen to the overture to Le nozze di Figaro – the principal clarinet is distinguished, the basses are not over-scaled, the rhythm is lissom, flexible yet anticipatory. And in the brief Bastien und Bastienne Davis keeps the rhythm spruce, crescendos register with immediacy, the dynamics are keen and the sensibility is unselfconsciously right. The pomposo gait of Der Schauspieldirektor with its horns to the fore relaxes delightfully into a bassoon and string-rich patina. The thematic unravelling is the epitome of felicitousness, the naturalness of the expressive playing a joy. Davis and his Dresden forces can fizz – as they do in Lucio Silla’s opening - but maintain crisp articulation even at speed and the inner part-writing is projected with clarity.
Sparkling wind runs inform Così fan tutte and Davis takes a fine Andantino in the central movement of the opening of La finta giardiniera though there’s always enough breathing space to allow phrases to unfold naturally. A distinguishing feature is how seldom one can find anything at all problematic with tempi and balance. Try the characterisation of Die Entführung aus dem Serail for instance where the winds blend with sovereign intimacy or go to Il re pastore where the trumpets are vividly balanced in the orchestral sound picture without in any way becoming braying or cutting through the texture. The grazioso phrasing of the winds is icing on that particular cake. Add to this the whiff of the stage that is everywhere evident, especially in the overture to Don Giovanni, and you have a winning disc.
If there’s a finer collection of Mozart overtures on disc I’ve not heard it. Davis cleaves to traditional values with his superlative orchestra, splendidly recorded. Look no further.
Jonathan Woolf


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