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REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Opera Arias and Overtures
Le nozze di Figaro: Overture [4:12]
Le nozze di Figaro: Giunse alfin - Deh vieni non tardar [4:45]
Idomeneo: Overture [4:32]
Idomeneo: Quanti mi siete intorno - Padre, germani, addio [4:31]
Don Giovanni: Overture [5:49]
Don Giovanni: Batti, batti [4:06]
Don Giovanni: Vedrai, carino [3:31]
La clemenza di Tito: Overture [4:30]
La clemenza di Tito: S’altro che lacrime [2:44]
La finta giardiniera: Overture [4:40]
La finta giardiniera: Appena mi vedon [4:27]
Coś fan tutte: Overture [4:33]
Coś fan tutte: Ei parte - Per pietà [9:28]
Elizabeth Watts (soprano)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Christian Baldini
rec. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 3-6 June 2013. DDD/DSD
Texts and translations included.
LINN CKD460 SACD [61:48]

Reviewed as 24/96 download from hyperion-records.co.uk (also available in mp3 and 16-bit lossless) and from linnrecords.com additionally on hybrid SACD, and 24/192 download, all with pdf booklet.

I almost passed this by, thinking that I didn’t need another collection of Mozart arias and overtures: I was very wrong.  The fault lies partly with Linn, who refer to a ‘selection of arias from six of Mozart’s much-loved operas, alongside their respective overtures’.  In fact, this is far from being as run-of-the-mill as that makes it sound.   Buy this recording for the familiar items and you’ll find yourself introduced to excerpts from operas that you may not have known or paid much attention to.

That the three da Ponte comedies should be included is inevitable, but the two examples of Mozart in opera seria, Idomeno, re di Creta and La clemenza di Tito, and the early La finta giardiniera are certainly not over-exposed.  In fact, they are all works to which I very rarely listen in complete form, but I shall be digging the sets out of my collection to listen again after hearing Elizabeth Watts’ advocacy of them.  That’s especially true of the aria from La clemenza di Tito.

Linn and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have a distinguished history in Mozart, not least for the wonderful 2-CD recordings of the late symphonies which Sir Charles Mackerras made just before his death: CKD308: Recording of the Month – review – and CKD350: Recording of the Month – DL Roundup April 2010review.  If the new recording is, perhaps, not quite in that class, it’s not at all far behind.

Christian Baldini’s direction is just right: that and the way in which the orchestra respond to his direction in the overtures and arias, though this is his first recording with them, is a very important ingredient in the success of this album.  Together they seem perfectly attuned to the singing of Elizabeth Watts.

But it’s the quality of the singing that ultimately persuaded me to make this a Recording of the Month.  I had come across Ms Watts before, for example as Zerlina in the Covent Garden Don Giovanni, a role which she very effectively reprises here in two arias, but I hadn’t taken much note before; now I shall be revisiting the recordings on which she appears and looking out for her in future.  Like Emma Kirkby, she pursued another path, in her case archaeology, before becoming a professional singer.  Though she is a very different kind of soprano – her warmth a complement to Ms Kirkby’s pure tones – she deserves to do as well.  The contrast between Susanna’s Deh vieni non tardar (track 2) and the power which she displays on track 4, Padre, germani, addio from Idomeneo, indicates that she is capable of tackling a very wide range of roles.

The recording is excellent.  I listened to the 24/96 download which, at £18 from both sources, is rather pricey considering that the SACD costs £13 from Linn.  I tried the £8 mp3 too, also good of its kind, albeit at variable bit-rate, so the CD-quality 16-bit download, which falls between the two in quality and costs £10 should satisfy most listeners.

The very fine booklet, which comes with the downloads from both Hyperion and Linn, adds to the appeal of this release.  From me a short review usually implies high approval; in this case it certainly does.

Brian Wilson



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