Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 


 
REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prťalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallť
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Mitridate, Re di Ponto (1770) [167:43]
Mitridate Ė Mathias Zachariassen (tenor)
Aspasia Ė Henriette Bonde-Hansen (soprano)
Sifare Ė Maria Fontosh (soprano)
Farnace Ė Kiristina HammarstrŲm (soprano)
Ismene Ė Lisa Larsson (soprano)
Arbate Ė Sine Bundgaard (soprano)
Marzio Ė Anders J. Dahlin (tenor)
Danish Radio Sinfonietta/Adam Fischer
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, March 2002
Hybrid SACD
DRS 6.220580-82 [3 CDs: 68:23 + 56:51 + 42:30]

Experience Classicsonline
Listening to Mitridate it is all too easy to forget that this is the work of a 14-year old with barely any experience of opera and none whatsoever in writing for a large-scale theatre. During his Italian tour with his father in 1769-70, the young Mozart so impressed Count Firmian of Milan that he commissioned an opera from him to be performed in the 1770 season. The opera was to be premiered in the Teatro Regio Ducale in Milan, one of Italyís three leading theatres of the time. That Mozart could even attempt such a task at such a callow age and with so little experience is remarkable. That he should succeed so well is nothing short of a miracle!

Itís important to keep reminding yourself of this as you listen to the opera because it isnít an instantly appealing piece. Itís a true opera seria and so Mozart has to abide by a number of conventions which donít always appeal to a modern audience, most notably the long arias strung out between huge stretches of recitative. Furthermore his inexperience shows in a few places, such as casting Aspasiaís first aria, a plea to be released from the rigours of fate, as a storming piece of coloratura bombast. Likewise the staccato writing for the angry Mitridate as he rages against his treacherous son comes dangerously close to the comic antics of Don Curzio in Figaro; for more on this see the article on the opera in the Penguin Opera Guide. That said, there is a great deal of hugely attractive music, most notably the gorgeous Act 2 duet for Sifare and a French horn, here sung and played most beautifully. The drama of the accompagnato recitatives is incredibly striking, especially the sequence in Act 3 when Aspasia is presented with a cup of poison to drink, and the opera isnít a collection of wall-to-wall da capo arias Ė there is plenty of variety and drama.

Adam Fischer pays this music the great compliment of taking it seriously and, following on from his recent recording of Lucio Silla with these Danish forces, he does a very good job of reminding us of just how attractive the precocious boyís genius could be. The finest thing about this recording is the playing of the small Danish Radio Sinfonietta. The use of modern instruments instantly sets this recording apart from the setís chief rival on Decca with Christoph Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. The playing fizzes with period awareness while placing it firmly in the same lineage as Idomeneo, Tito and the Da Ponte trilogy. Fischerís sense of pacing is strong too, all-important in the recitatives which, while one might wish they were a little briefer, seldom send one reaching for the fast-forward button.

His singers are a mixed bag. His decision not to use any counter-tenors means that we are confronted with a battalion of sopranos. This isnít a bad thing in itself, but it makes for very little contrast in the nearly three hours of music. The voices can sound rather similar too, which doesnít help. During the early section of the duet for Sifare and Aspasia that ends Act 2 it sounds just like one singer in an aria rather than two voices alternating in duet. That said, it is these two characters who have the most notable voices in the set. Maria Fontosh sings the castrato role of Sifare with beauty, tenderness and just the right touch of heroism in the final act. The unmissable Henriette Bonde-Hansen is Aspasia: her very first aria, with its storming coloratura features a take-no-prisoners accompaniment, while make your hair stand on end. Itís just a shame that there is nothing like it to follow in the rest of the opera! Lisa Larssonís Ismene challenges her for precision of coloratura, but her voice is overall much sweeter and lighter, while Kiristina HammarstrŲm captures well the grasping character of the treacherous Farnace.

What a shame that the casting of Mitridate himself was not stronger! Mathias Zachariassen is just not cut out for the challenges of this role. He is noticeably stretched by the challenges of his entrance aria and his effortful runs and leaps make for very uncomfortable listening. He is understandably more settled in the gentler numbers, but I could never shake off the feeling that he just was not happy in the role. This comes through too many times, detracting from both the drama and the music, most notably in his rather emasculated rage aria in Act 2. Itís such a pity, and one would reasonably have expected that such a central character should have been cast from more strength.

So if you need modern instruments in this work then you should explore this edition with a degree of confidence for the women and the excellent playing. However, if youíre fine with period instruments then the superior singing on Roussetís version will still win you over. Itís surprising to find stars like Sabbatini, Bartoli and Dessay giving their time to this minor work, and there is even a tiny cameo from Juan Diego Florez, but they all sound fantastic and they revel in the opportunities to show off as, surely, must have the original cast in Mozartís day. Rousset had been criticised for turning the opera into a star vehicle, but when it sounds as good as it does there then thatís just fine with me. A good job from Fischer, but the competition pips him to the post.

The booklet notes are first rate, by the way, and include full texts and translations. The sound quality is superb.

Simon Thompson
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.