W.A. Mozart: Mitridate
01 June 2010
GRAMOPHONE RECORDING OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2010
The riches of youthful MOZART
The 14-year-old Mozart’s first attempt at an opera seria has fared extremely well on disc during the last dozen years: Christophe Rousset’s brisk performance (Decca, 5/99) has a starstudded cast that delivers excellent allround singing (albeit marred by Giuseppe Sabbatini’s absurdly unidiomatic vocal bulging); Jed Wentz’s budget version for Brilliant Classics is admirably played and nicely sung; Sir Roger Norrington’s live recording from the 1997 Salzburg Festival has a variable cast and a number of cuts, but is conducted with unrivalled stylish conviction (Orfeo, 1/07).
Adam Fischer’s interpretation, recorded by Danish Radio in March 2002, now makes its belated appearance on CD. The Danish Radio Sinfonietta play with an ideal balance between lean rhythmic articulation and shapely melodic phrasing. Fischer conducts with a sure sense of pacing; dramatic details in the orchestral ritornellos of each aria are astutely brought out. His versatile shading of the orchestra during the contrasting slow and fast sections of Sifare’s “Parto: nel gran cimento” is sensitively attuned to Maria Fontosh’s switches between tender melodic outpourings and flowing coloratura. The emergence of vigorous orchestral nuances in Farnace’s defiant outburst “Venga pur, minacci e frema” is exemplary because the marvellous Kristina Hammarström is never forced to compete for attention. Mathias Zachariassen navigates notoriously wide leaps with unusual assurance in his entrance cavata “Se di lauri il crine adorno” (Mozart had to compose this aria five times before The riches of youthful MOZART Rescued from the archives: Adám Fischer’s Mozart the original singer was content with it); Zachariassen also copes better than most with the fiendish technical gauntlet thrown down at him in the furious “Quel ribelle e quell’ingrato”.
Most impressively, this performance captures the full theatrical potency of the unfurling plot. The extended sequence of accompanied recitatives and arias in which the secret lovers Sifare and Aspasia discuss their dire predicament (Act 2 scenes 7-8) are delivered with dramatic poignancy. At the heart of Act 3, Henriette Bonde-Hansen’s solemn characterisation of Aspasia coming to terms with being forced to drink poison is show-stopping. The lighter voices of Sine Bundgaard and Lisa Larsson suit the roles of Arbate and Ismene perfectly, and Anders J Dahlin neatly dispatches the small role of the Roman tribune Marzio. Harpsichordist Richard Lewis prepared the performing edition by abridging the original recitative, adding trumpets and timpani to four numbers with military overtones (some may doubt that this was necessary), and providing a cadenza for the horn obbligato in Sifare’s “Lungi da te” (beautifully played by Thomas Kjelldén). I shall be surprised to hear a more satisfying Mozart opera recording any time soon.