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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Grabmusik, K42/K35a (original 1767 version) [18:14]
Bastien und Bastienne, K50 (original 1768 version, plus second, 1769, version of “Diggi, daggi”) [48:07]
Angel, Bastienne: Anna Maria Richter (soprano); Bastien: Alessandro Fisher (tenor); Colas: Darren Jeffrey (bass-baritone); Soul: Jacques Imbrailo (baritone)
The Mozartists/Ian Page
rec. 2018, Blackheath Concert Halls, Blackheath, London

I admit to being less than entranced by my only previous encounter with Ian Page and Classical Opera in their recording “The A-Z of Mozart Opera” but respond more positively to this new coupling of early works: the original 1767 version of the Grabmusik and Bastien und Bastienne, also in its original 1768 form, following the discovery in Krakow in the 80’s of the autograph manuscript; we are thus listening to astonishingly accomplished works written by an eleven and twelve-year-old Mozart. The former is a dialogue between the Soul and an Angel meditating upon the nature of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind. It is skilfully played and very competently sung: Jacques Imbralio has a light, flexible baritone although I wish he would not let so many lachrymose, glottal intrusions break his line, presumably introduced for emotive effect, and I find Anna Maria Richter’s soprano to be plaintive and rather wailing in tone, she uses vibrato so sparingly. It is not major music but it is attractively performed. Interestingly, a colourful theory postulates that it written under duress and in camera over a week of solitary confinement, as the young Mozart’s response to the Prince of Salzburg’s challenge to prove he could produce such music unaided.

Bastien und Bastienne is the sole opera written by Mozart for a private patron for performance in his home and is here given a suitably small-scale consists of predominately short arias interspersed with dialogue. It is a piece of pastoral fluff about the trials of faithless love wherein the lovers are ultimately reconciled via the intervention of a Fortune Teller-come-necromancer; then, as the notes remind us, there are elements of Singspiel, as in Bastien’s threats of suicided, echoing Papageno’s in Die Zauberflöte. The music is light, bubbly and varied, and here sung by appropriately light, flexible and attractive voices. Anna Maria Richter is pert and pretty and tenor Alessandro Fisher unaffected and sweet of tone. Darren Jeffrey makes a jolly necromancer but his bass-baritone lacks some resonance in its lower regions here. The vibrato-free orchestral playing is alert and detailed

Some listeners might initially be surprised by the apparent omission of the famous spell-casting aria with the nonsense text “Diggi daggi, Schurry, murry”, which here appears in its original incarnation, “Tätzel, Brätzel, Schober, Kober” but the better-known version is featured as an appendix.

The production values here are high: the two discs are in an attractive cardboard digipack containing a booklet with extensive notes and a full German-English libretto. There have been previous recordings of the opera on DG, EMI and Sony, with some big-name singers and performed on larger scale than here, also a Philips version employing three trebles from the Vienna Boys’ Choir, but this is the recording for those who want the most authentic period performance available.

Ralph Moore

Previous reviews: Colin Clarke ~ Dominy Clements


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