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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Così fan tutte - Dramma giocoso in two acts. KV588 (1790)
Fiordiligi - Sena Jurinac (soprano): Dorabella - Alice Howland (soprano); Ferrando - Richard Lewis (tenor); Guglielmo - Marko Rothmüller (baritone); Don Alfonso - Sesto Bruscantini (baritone); Despina - Isa Quensel (soprano)
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Fritz Busch
rec. live, 5 July 1951, plus interpolations
IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1004-2 [78:58 + 70.56]
Experience Classicsonline

This is by no means the first incarnation of the 1951 Glyndebourne performance on CD. Its previous appearance was on Guild GHCD 2303-04 (see review) in which Richard Caniell and his team presented the performance in the best sound then available. Now, in collaboration with the Bruder Busch Archive, another and better sounding recording of the work has appeared. Interpolations have also been improved. As before, the opera was recorded on acetates but these were much quieter and, as Caniell notes, clearer. Unfortunately the overture was not preserved in good sound and one from 1940 with Busch - I assume the Stockholm performance - has been substituted. Other interpolations use the 1950 commercial recording with Jurinac and Lewis and there’s a brief interpolation from the 1935 Glyndebourne recording of Un aura amorosa (as sung then so beautifully by Heddle Nash). The total timing for such interpolations we are told is three minutes in all.

One effect of the substitution of the overture is that we lose the excited applause that follows immediately it ends; it sounds vital and theatrical in its previous incarnation. Here we move straight on. Privately, to me, this is no great loss, but though he doesn’t mention it in his notes I’m curious how Caniell feels about its excision. I must note that the 1940 recording is quite rough in places - rougher than the new transfer that follows. I will also note the changed tracking. CD 1 track 12 now has a separate tracking for the chorus Bella vita militar!

What follows is largely a reprise of my previous review.

Fritz Busch’s Glyndebourne Così was recorded in 1935 but this live broadcast dates from the period of the conductor’s post-War return. It’s interesting to note that Spike Hughes’ history of Glyndebourne mentions this 1951 Così almost by default; none of the other three Mozart operas ever took wing in the same way as [the same season’s] Idomeneo Only Così, dominated by the triumphant Fiordiligi of Sena Jurinac, had anything of the quality which had made this Glyndebourne’s particular show-piece. This may or may not be true - it’s probably more true than not in terms of all-round ensemble - but it’s certainly true that Busch retained, up to the very end of his life, a very special command of Mozartian tempo relations. Hughes always credited him, Bruno Walter and Richard Strauss as the greatest Mozart opera conductors he had heard. Would that Strauss had left behind his own Così or Figaro.

Now there is the cast to consider. First there is indeed Jurinac. Right from the off in the Scene II duet Ah guarda, sorella she is right on the note; finely nuanced, characterful, beautiful of tone. Rightly her Act II Scene II aria Per pietà, ben mio stops the show - frantic applause here. Here and elsewhere she marries intimacy with declamation and rides over the aural limitations with ease, showing fascinating understanding of her role. Lewis hasn’t a predecessor such as Nash’s minstrelsy of tone but he has liquid ease and fine tone production. His mezza voce (hear Un aura amorosa but note that this is a splice from both surviving editions so sound varies) is excellent. At first he seems over parted by the Guglielmo of Marko Rothmüller but this is doubtless a question of stage management and balance is regained later in the Act. Sesto Bruscantini’s Don Alfonso is a strong though not really characterful presence in specifically vocal terms; it’s not an intrinsically beautiful voice but it’s well focused and doesn’t spread. His impersonation on the other hand is special, character acting that comes across the years and across, indeed, the degraded grooves. The American mezzo, Alice Howland, is also not in the first league and her aria Smanie implacabli che m’agrite doesn’t ignite as it should. The Despina of Isa Quensel, on the other hand, fits securely and appositely in terms of vocal colour and quick-wittedness, into the ensemble. Busch employs a piano continuo as was customary with him. He zips along the recits and he and Carl Ebert convey the horseplay on stage as well as the darker occluded elements. Above all else Busch is the wizardly presence on the rostrum.

Is this an essential purchase and is it an essential purchase even for admirers of Busch? Given that the 1935 commercial set is widely available I would answer ‘no’ generally and ‘yes’ for Busch admirers. The much improved sound is a distinct plus though it’s still not the equal of contemporaneous German off-air recordings; this will probably rule it out of court for the generalist and for all the IP team’s proselytising the fact of the matter is that the rest of the cast isn’t quite up to Jurinac’s consistently inspired level. Given the sonic improvements the caveat level is strongly reduced, but this is still obviously a specialist acquisition.  

Jonathan Woolf  

message received:

Dear Mr. Woolf,

Thanks for your varied and interesting reviews. I quite agree with your regrets that the disc numbers were omitted from the Vinogradov album. We had them on our listings but an earlier version was erroneously sent for replication. We are enclosing them with each album we send out and have asked The Record Collector, which recently reviewed this album, to present it in their next edition. I attach the numbers here.

About the loss of applause after the Cosí overture. Our first edition (for Guild) had the overture missing sections, including the conclusion. I used the Glyndebourne 1935 performance and imagined there would have been applause so I added it. When we entered an association with Busch Bruder and I heard the original overture (which was similarly very poor, but complete) there was no applause (surprise!); the performance went into the opening scene without a murmur from the audience. That being so, I duplicated what this new illumination dictated. Voila tout, as they say.

Best wishes,
Richard Caniell



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