Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Karl BÃ¶hm, Heinrich Schmidt|
Mozart: Cosė fan tutte
Listen to Samples
The sound of perfection from long ago
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 09/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is an inevitable question: Why are most of the finest Opera recordings so old? After all, recording technology is far superior now. Instrumental and vocal instruction and technique have never been better (or more standardized - consider that a clue!) Today's jet-lagged Conductors have an entire century of recordings to refer to, if they so wish (another clue!). Even the format is easier to distribute than the heavy vinyl collections of old. So what's wrong?
The key is sameness. In the "Golden-era" of the 1950's through 1970's, Instrumental, Orchestral and Vocal distinctiveness was treasured. Consider Violinists: even a relative novice could recognize the difference in tone, phrasing and attack of Heifetz, Milstein and Oistrach. All of them with similar Cultural backgrounds yet utterly distinct virtuosi. So it was with Singers and Orchestras. And distinctiveness led to true interpretive perfection of style. Don't believe me? Listen to this recording!
Cosi Fan Tutte is the "smallest" of the great Da Ponte-Mozart Operas. Essentially a Chamber-Opera for six voices, its glory resides in the unearthly beauty of Mozart's writing for their various combinations. The plot is famously slight (or lame and immoral if your name is Beethoven!). But there is something deeper here: a cynical sadness framing the broad comedy. The libretto's cynicism is also why the priggish (hypocritical?) 19th Century ignored this Opera. Mozart was nothing if not a dramatist of genius. If he felt this libretto unworthy of attention he would not have written a note. But he lavished his most sublime music on it. Clearly, he responded to it. 1790 was a hard year for him. Poverty, questions about his wife's fidelity, commercial failure all hounded him. Naturally, that wonderfully elusive emotional ambiguity that informs all of Mozart's greatest music is fully in evidence in this score. No wonder the early Romantics responded to Mozart and not Haydn.
Karl Bohm is renowned as a great Mozartean. That means he has mastered the Orchestral means of expressing that emotional ambiguity. It is devilishly difficult to simultaneously express both Mozart's surface perfection and his deeper resonance. That is why great Mozarteans are rare. Thomas Beecham also possessed this ability, as did Giulini, Erich Kleiber and (interestingly) George Szell. This 1963 Bohm-led recording (along with his DGG Figaro and Magic Flute) is one of the finest Mozart Opera recordings in the catalog.
Listen to the intensity of the minor key arias. Is this Mozart or Verdi? Only when those typically glorious woodwind interludes enter are we sure. Here is nascent Romanticism, mingled with Classical perfection and grace. Bohm grasps the need to express these polar opposites. His tempos are slower, more stately. Orchestral textures are crystal clear allowing the voices to hover above the music. The instruments seem to emerge FROM the voices, not vice versa as is prevalent today.
And what voices! Elizabeth Schwarzkopf is stunning as Fiordiligi. She is restrained in attack yet her tone is rich, her approach emotional and her expressiveness unshackled. Here is deep-feeling and pathos framed by Classical grace. Listen to her Second Act Duet with Ferrando "Fra gli amplessi in pochi istanti". This is some of her finest work on record. Christa Ludwig as Dorabella is superb, as always. She was one of those singers whose voice inhabited a role without drawing attention to itself, allowing her to become the character and not merely a voice singing a character (Pavarotti comes to mind). Giuseppe Taddei is fine as Guglielmo. Alfredo Kraus is a solid Ferrando. Hanny Steffek is a suitably comic Despina. Walter Berry a mature Don Alfonso. The Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus are wonderful, as they generally were as EMI's House-band of the era. This is a classic recording. Perhaps one of the greatest of a Mozart Opera. One hears a truly distinctive approach from an era when singularity of expression (even eccentricity) was encouraged. That is what is missing today. It may never return!
The sound of this recording is warm. Stereo separation is restrained, reflecting legendary Producer Walter Legge's equally legendary hatred for stereo. Also apparent is the more elusive sound of Mozartean perfection from a time long ago. We are fortunate indeed such greatness was recorded and remains available for all to sample. 5 stars for a truly great recording of all centuries."
An enduring classic of the Gramophone
Sheng-chi Shu | Singapore | 08/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cosi fan tutte is a cinderella amongst Mozart's operatic masterpieces. Composed in 1789, it satirizes the frailty of the female sex. It is of little wonder that the plot is severly condemned by the Victorian morality of the 19th century and the opera was destined to gather dust for several decades at least until the mid 1930s, when Fritz Busch gave it a long-dued revival at the Glyndebourne Festival. Since then it has gradually regained its popularity and is now recognised as one of Mozart's finest creations. In this opera, Mozart achieved a really unique suppleness and snority in his orchestration. His use of the woodwinds is a special delight and the music emerges with a wide tonal spectrum coupled with unusual sensitivity, subtlety and sensuosness. The vocal writing encompasses a great variety of colours, shades, pathos and feelings. In short, this is Mozart at his most imaginative.The 1962 EMI recording has long been held up as THE recording for the masterpiece and at last it has been lovingly refurbished and re-released in the Great Recordings of the Century series. Indeed, it rightly deserves its place. I have expounded on the merits and virtues of the singing and conducting in an earlier review posted to amazon.com and so it's really unnecessary for me to repeat the same virtues here. Perhaps one might complain about Schwarzkopf's mannerisms and interventionist style, Ludwig's lack of youthful sap in her voice, and even Karl Bohm's relatively slow tempi. However, the singers' positive assets, including the sisters' uncanny ability to sing off the words, and Bohm's cumulative, visionary, loving yet sensitive handling of the beautiful score overcome whatever shortcomings one wants to raise. That says a lot for the recording's timeless quality and its enduring place in the catalogue. Veterans in the appreciation of Mozart's theatrical genius can attest to this, and newcomers to this opera are indeed encouraged to give this set a try and he/she will be hugely rewarded."
Still one of the best
klavierspiel | TX, USA | 04/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Karl Boehm's 1962 recording of Mozart's masterpiece still holds its place as one of the best of this opera. After four decades, what seems most notable among its many virtues is the unanimity of conception and the perfection of ensemble, so important in a work where concerted numbers carry the brunt of the action. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Christa Ludwig in particular make an uncannily convincing vocal pair of sisters, while Alfredo Kraus uses his distinctive timbre to create an unusually assertive Ferrando. There are no weaknesses in the rest of the cast. Among small reservations one might have are the cuts in the score (not many), the most notable being Ferrando's second-act aria, "Ah, lo veggio." One might also take issue with a certain cool detachment in the musical approach, which prevents a fuller emotional connection with these all-too-human characters. It's possible these days to regard them more as real-life people than might have been the case in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, the quality of the singing and playing alone keeps this recording firmly among the great ones."