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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Mozart Arias
Christian Gerhaher (baritone)
Freiburger Barockorchester/Gottfried von der Goltz (baroque violin)
Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano, track 5; strumento d’acciaio, track 11); Avi Avital (mandolin, track 2)
rec. live 16-19 January 2015 Konzerthaus, Freiburg, Germany
Full Italian and German texts with English translations
SONY CLASSICS 88875087162 [76.00]

I have been fortunate to have heard German baritone Christian Gerhaher in concert performance a handful of times. The last occasion was in June 2015 with the Staatskapelle Dresden under Christian Thielemann at the Semperoper, Dresden. Gerhaher sang Schubert and Wagner opera arias giving a gloriously polished and expressive performance assisted by peerless orchestral support from the Staatskapelle Dresden.

On this new album Gerhaher performs with the Freiburger Barockorchester on period instruments directed from the violin by Gottfried von der Goltz. They know their Mozart extremely well. They released a recording of the Linz in 2010 as part of the orchestra’s survey of Mozart’s late symphonies. This followed recordings of Mozart operas all directed by René Jacobs on Harmonia Mundi.

Gerhaher has selected arias from four of Mozart’s last five operas; all works he has performed on stage. There are four arias from Don Giovanni, five from Le nozze di Figaro and three from Così fan tutte. In addition there are three in German from Die Zauberflöte. A formidable artist, Gerhaher dramatically illuminates each of the arias with musical sensitivity and total immersion in the text. Without excessive vibrato and no annoying mannerisms Gerhaher’s glorious singing also sounds fresh and spontaneous. There is not a dud track on the whole album.

My particular highlights are headed by Madamina, il catalogo è questo ‘Catalogue Aria’ from act 1 of Don Giovanni, the servant Leporello’s account of his master’s abundance of lovers, delivered by Gerhaher with urgency and exquisite lyricism. From the same opera Fin ch’han dal vino Don Giovanni’s ‘Champagne Aria’ also from act 1displays Gerhaher’s splendidly resilient yet fluid tone. He plays the role of Papageno from Die Zauberflöte wonderfully. The German baritone’s aptitude for the part can be seen to great effect in Pierre Audi’s 2006 Salzburg Festival production with the Wiener Philharmoniker under Riccardo Muti that I have on Decca Blu-ray. Gerhaher sings all three arias from Papageno the lovelorn bird-catcher Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja from act 1 and Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen and Papagena! Papagena! Papagena! from act 2 and does so with a robust expressive power so pleasing to the ear. With unswerving vitality the performance of the Freiburger Barockorchester reflects its relish for these scores.

For Mozart symphonies I tend to prefer what might be described today as ‘big band’ Mozart. I recall reporting from a stunning concert of the final three symphonies given by the Wiener Philharmoniker under Daniel Barenboim in May 2012 at Semper Oper, Dresden. Nevertheless it is refreshing to hear the lighter more transparent sound of the thirty-five or so strong Freiburger Barockorchester using period-instruments and the pleasing amount of fine detail revealed. I especially enjoyed the stately yet energetic third movement Menuetto and the sheer vibrancy and commitment given to the Finale: Presto.

Gerhaher employs a highly subjective approach to the running order of the arias. It doesn’t bother me too much that they are not in chronological order and are spread about but it's puzzling that the four movements of the Symphony are interspersed amongst the arias. Equally bewildering is the jarring decision to change the order of the movements. The works on this release were recorded at live concerts held in January 2015 at Konzerthaus, Freiburg and the Linz was played complete and not in the manner presented here.

Recorded live the engineering team has provided excellent sound quality that is clear and satisfyingly balanced. In the booklet is an informative essay by Mozart specialist Professor Dieter Borchmeyer titled ‘The Transformations of Eros in Mozart’s Final Operas’. A minor grumble concerns the minute size of the font used for the numbering of the annotation. Thankfully there are full Italian and German texts with English translations given.

With Christian Gerhaher in quite stunning form this is a beautifully played and recorded release in spite of the oddly assembled running order.

Michael Cookson

Track Listing
Don Giovanni, K527 (1787)
1) Act 1, Madamina, il catalogo è questo [5.58]
2) Act 2, Deh vieni alla finestra [1.54]
3) Act 1, Fin ch'han dal vino [1.23]
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 ‘Linz’ (1783)
4) IV Presto [7.28]
Le nozze di Figaro, K492 (1786)
5. Act 1, Bravo, signor padrone!... Se vuol ballare, signor contino [3.25]
Don Giovanni, K527 (1787)
6. Act 2, Metà di voi qua vadano [2.43]
Così fan tutte, K588 (1790)
7. Act 1, Non siate ritrosi [1.41]
Don Giovanni, K527 (1787)
8. Act 2, A pietà, signori miei [1.42]
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 ‘Linz’ (1783)
9. II Andante [6.04]
Die Zauberflöte, K620 (1791)
10. Act 1, Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja
11. Act 2, Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen
12. Act 2, Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 ‘Linz’ (1783)
13. III. Menuetto – Trio [2.53]
Le nozze di Figaro, K492 (1786)
14. Act 4, Tutto è disposito… Aprite un po' quegli occhi [3.56]
15. Act 1, Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso [3.46]
16. Act 3, Hai già vinta la causa!… Vedrò mentr'io sospiro [4.46]
Così fan tutte, K588 (1790)
17. Act 2, Donne mie, la fate a tanti [3.06]
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 ‘Linz’ (1783)
18. I. Adagio - Allegro spiritoso [9.42]
Così fan tutte, K588 (1790)
19. Act 1, Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo [5.23]


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