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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K384 (1782)
Jane Archibald (soprano) – Konstanze; Norman Reinhardt (tenor) – Belmonte; Mischa Schelomianski (bass) – Osmin; David Portillo (tenor) – Padrillo; Rachele Gilmore (soprano) – Blonde; Christoph Quest (speaking role) – Pasha Selim; Ensemble Aedes, Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/Jérémie Rhorer
rec. live, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, 21 September 2015
German libretto with translations in French and English enclosed
ALPHA 242 [63:54 + 56:57]

With Idomeneo, premiered on 29 January 1781, Mozart at last produced a fully developed opera, musically, dramatically and psychologically. It can be traced, with hindsight, back to the operas of his youth. Idomeneo is an opera seria, built on baroque era conventions, but in the hands of Mozart ennobled and extended with important choruses and ensembles. The quartet in act III is a great step forward, pointing towards his later masterpieces.

Eighteen months later he entered another path in his conquering of the Singspiel, a genre that had been in vogue for quite a long time in the German-speaking world. Mozart had himself touched upon it in Zaide two years earlier but never finished it. The theme of the story is however related: a Westerner trying to rescue a compatriot from Muslim imprisonment or slavery. It is a light work filled with optimism, even though Konstanze is sad and brooding for most of the time. Although it has never attained the popularity of the three Da Ponte operas and Die Zauberflöte it is frequently played. Since the early 1950s it has also seen quite a lot of recordings. In my collection I have several, of which Ferenc Fricsay's DG version with Maria Stader, Rita Streich, Ernst Haefliger, Martin Vantin and Josef Greindl is a longstanding favourite. I also admire Josef Krips’ EMI recording from 1966 with Anneliese Rothenberger, Lucia Popp, Nicolai Gedda, Gerhard Unger and Gottlob Frick. Both Colin Davis and Georg Solti lead excellent recordings with starry casts.

The present recording is set down live and involves audience participation after practically every number. It certainly conveys a sense of being present at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on 21 September 2015. I’m not sure that my reaction will be that positive the fifth time I listen to the performance. It is a pity, since there are many good things here. I have heard several live recordings where the applause has been edited out, which shows that it is quite possible to produce a “clean” recording.

Jérémie Rhorer's orchestra play on period instruments and this lends a feeling of authenticity to the performance. It is, however, not one of those small-band versions with minimal string forces. The string section numbers 26 players, who deliver full-toned sonorities and there is a real fizz about the playing. Tempos are brisk, but not excessively so, and the playing is rhythmically incisive but without over-articulation. Apart from the period instruments this recording has big similarities with the Fricsay. He also has a slimmed-down orchestra and adopts lively tempos. Fricsay, recorded in 1954, was far ahead of his time in these respects, and his RIAS choristers are well up to the standard of Rhorer's forces.

The soloists are youthful and possessors of well-schooled voices. Jane Archibald is a bright and expressive Konstanze with secure coloratura. She has a sufficiently wide range to encompass also the contralto notes in Martern aller Arten. Her Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose is very touchingly sung. Norman Reinhardt’s Belmonte is slim and vital and has the measure of Ich baue ganz, which he sings with bravura. His tenor colleague David Portillo’s Pedrillo is lively and fresh and delivers In Mohrenland softly and with tenderness. Rachele Gilmore has the silvery top notes that one expects from Blonde and sparks fly in her disputes with Osmin. He is excellently sung and acted by Moscow-born Mischa Schelomianski, who has a rather baritonal timbre with his low notes as black as midnight. I get the feeling that he tires towards the end of the performance but generally his is a splendid impersonation of the Pasha Selim’s overseer. The Pasha himself (Christoph Quest) is rather pale and laidback when he doesn’t go choleric, which he does once in a while.

Fricsay’s cast has more personality with Rita Streich and Josef Greindl as Blonde and Osmin surpassing most other interpreters of these roles. They are also allowed to do their spoken dialogue themselves whereas the others are replaced by actors who sometimes sound very different from the respective singers. On Rhorer´s set all the singers also speak their parts, which feels more natural but also a bit distanced since none of them, Christoph Quest apart, are native German speakers.

By and large this is an attractive recording of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which I believe I will want to listen to again. That said, it doesn’t replace the Fricsay, which is a mono recording but in excellent sound for its age.

Göran Forsling
 

 




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