First things first: if you're seeing a picture of this disc on the site of an online retailer, be aware that it contains the Mass in C minor, K. 427, not the "Mass in C," promised by the cover, which would more likely be the "Coronation" Mass in C major, K. 337. It is always a shame when designers are given power of diktat over content editors. The so-called "Great" Mass in C minor is one of Mozart's most ambitious and most problematical works. There was no known immediate stimulus for its composition. Did Mozart begin writing it out of one of his rare religious impulses, on the occasion of his marriage to his bride Constanze? Out of his growing devotion to Freemasonry? Was it his first major exercise in applying the lessons in Bach-style counterpoint he had been receiving at the intellectual salons of the Baron van Swieten in Vienna? Or was it meant as a showpiece for singer Constanze with its killer soprano arias? It was all of these things and none of them, for Mozart never finished the mass.
Beethoven called Mozart's Requiem "wild and terrible", and that's what we get in Harnoncourt's new recording. Ominous dread hangs from every note of the dark opening measures, the Rex tremendae and Confutatis are driven with terrifying strength, and the supplications of the Lacrimosa, with their weeping stabbings of the orchestra, are freighted with emotional power. The Tuba mirum duet of bass soloist and trombone has a beauty almost never achieved in other readings. Nor does Harnoncourt overstep the stylistic boundaries of this classical-era work; rather, the intensity is heightened for being in the idiom of its time.
The Marriage of Figaro, as this elegant 1994 production brilliantly reminds us, was a French bedroom comedy before it became a Mozart opera. It is a classic of French literature, and it is still enjoyable as a spoken play after more than two centuries of existence. Its literary quality gives this production a special flavor. The music–some of Mozart's finest–is beautifully presented by a carefully chosen international cast (including Giovanni Furlanetto, Elzbieta Szymtka, Janice Watson, and Ludovic Tezier), but what sets this production apart is its theatrical flavor, cultivated by a director who is an expert on classic French theater. The standards of spoken theater are upheld in timing, body language, the inflection of punch lines. These qualities are more important here than in most operas; style is both crucial and elusive. Fortunately, the Opera de Lyon, one of most imaginative companies in Europe, shows an impressive sense of style. (Joe McLellan)
The Mozart Requiem is one of the best-known sacred works in the classical repertoire. It was the composer's last work, and he left it unfinished at his death. British conductor Roger Norrington, a pioneer of authentic performing practice, and an outstanding group of singers present Duncan Druce's version of the Requiem, based on the latest Mozart research, together with other moving choral works.
No timbral difference separates this midprice reissue of one of the best-loved concertos by Mozart from its previous, full-priced equivalent. There's a bit more ambience and warmth and less stridency on top. If you own the original CD, there's no need to replace it, but first-time buyers should snap up these sensitive, stylish performances in their Great Recordings of the Century guise. One of the main attractions is the extended compass and deliciously "woody" tone of Sabine Meyer's basset clarinet. The clarinetist's fleet, effortless dispatch of the Clarinet Concerto's outer movements is a delight to the ear, and her improvised (or so they seem!) flourishes fit into their environment as if Mozart had written them himself.
Sony Classical continues its major Mozart opera project with conductor Teodor Currentzis and his orchestra & choir MusicAeterna. A ‘no-compromise’ studio recording cycle of Mozart’s three Da Ponte operas. Living in a unique artistic community established on the edge of Siberia, the musicians work and record under ideal conditions towards Currentzis’ stated goal “to show what can be achieved if you avoid the factory approach of the classical music mainstream”. The soloists’ vocal technique is also markedly different to modern operatic interpretation, with a focus on intimacy and clarity, a use of vibrato remarkably restrictive even by today’s ‘period practice’ standards as well as an approach to melodic ornamentation derived from historic sources which cannot be heard in other performances of these works.
Some say it's violinist Andrew Manze's tone that makes him distinctive, that there's a sweetness to his non-vibrato swells and a strength to his flexible bowing that make his playing so attractive. Some say it's Manze's phrasing that makes him distinctive, that there's a lyrical quality to his line and a molded quality to his dynamics that make his playing so appealing. Some say it's Manze's interpretation that makes him so distinctive, that there's a combination of fantasy, intensity, and effortless virtuosity that make his performances so persuasive. Some say it's all these things at once and this 2006 disc of the last three of Mozart's five violin concertos is the proof.
Every major conductor, and most not-so-major ones, comes around to recording Eine kleine Nachtmusik, but not so many do it as well as George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strings. And let’s face it, you won’t find a period-instrument ensemble that plays with anything like this level of polish. The fact is, Szell’s conception of Mozart was not terribly far from “period” sensibilities: restrained use of vibrato, incisive rhythms, crisp ensemble, lively tempos, but also a welcome degree of warmth to the sound and of course incredible ensemble discipline and some of the best players on the planet. And he had real period instruments, meaning performers who owned top quality old violins and bows, not inferior modern reproductions of them. The result is as lovely a performance of Mozart’s perennially delicious Serenade as we are ever likely to hear.