james5anderson | USA | 01/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ostman created a stir when he made these recordings in the 1980s. And now it available in a collectors' edition box. I'm so excited. Sumi Jo's Queen of the Night here is even better than her recording for Solti. Ostman's Don Giovanni is the fastest I've ever heard, not to mention the most exciting. This Cosi Fan Tutte is Gramophone's reference Cosi. And this Figaro has many "alternative" arias that other recordings never bother with. Don't worry, the alternative is at the back so you can program it out. In fact, this is the only set of Mozart operas with ALL the alternative arias available. Even Gardiner does not have some of these. So this is a supreme set of importance. I cannot recommend this too highly. Exciting performances now available in Decca's collectors' edition."
Some of the most thought-provoking recordings ever, combined
rd3482 | 09/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I must state first that I was ANXIOUS to write this rave review. Ever since I got these cd's and realized the treause that is to be found in these recordings I just couldn't wait until I'd had the chance to tell everybody else about it... I honestly believe these recordings should be heard by anybody who is interested in this repertoire and music in general, since this are also some of the most perfect pieces of music in the repertoire.
As for the music itself, I am not going to write about. I think it is enough to read my last sentence to realize exactly what I think about it - and it is really just a must. That's composition taken to the highest possible level.
What I do want to write is about the performances.
Arnold Ostman, not the most known figure in the musical world, (not even amongst musicians- I come from Juilliard, and that name is definitely not one everybody knows) has created in the 80's in Mozart the equivalent of what Harnoncourt and Gardiner have done in Bach performance practice, i.e. has totally changed the conecption which was assimilated into everybody's mind regarding notions about how music of that era should sound like.
Trying to create a performance experience which emulates Mozart's period performance practice he changed everything starting from tempos, through ornamentation and of course- the voices themselves.
For us, most people indoctrinated by the post-romantisicm eastablished especially by Herbert von Karajan and the ilks of him, the first initial response will be a shock. The almost imperceptible swift tempos, the small voices etc. are sure to knock over anybody who haven't heard these recordings before. It might create an intial negative response but hang-on there, as the result is so much more gratifying then of hearing a recording of Karajan, Giulini, Furtwangler or any GREAT other conductor from that era- They were obviously incredible musical figures, but in terms of style and total perception of the piece it just doesn't work on the same level, in Mozart of course. (You'd still want to keep your Furtwangler's ninth copy...)
What is so great about Ostman is the freshness of mind with which he walks into every piece. Just like a real iconoclast
it seems as if he has landed from an entire different planet, and is just coming to conduct these pieces and give their debut. I can't give a more sincere and true compliment than that, musically speaking.
The results are the most fresh interpretations up to date of Mozart most important operas which also derive from some of the best vocal performances I have ever heard.
Under Ostman's direction it seems as though all the singers bloom and give their most musical and inspired performances,
holding on under the swiftest tempos in an admirable way. There is no point in pointing out names because it is as in a rule that the performances are just stellar one by one, even though not carrying around sometimes the most famous names.
This is not to say that all of the recordings in this set are equally perfect, and that I agree to all of the interprations and the insights given by Ostman, but you can't disregard the feeling that he knew EXACTLY what he wanted and executed it almost flawlessly. (the one exception might be small part of Cosi, mainly the overture, which was recorded very early in the stages of period instruments playing- therefore not always as perfect as you would have liked to hear it, but the performance as a whole is still the most beautiful Cosi I know.)
As for the packaging itself: The price is a complete steal, (incredible especially if you order it through other sellers, got mine for about 40$). What you DON'T get are the librettos, so you'd HAVE to get them from a different source. Either a different recording you might have, (you just might want one of the standard reference recordings one usually hears about like Giulini's) or you could just buy the librettos through Amazon, would still cost you very little.
Should not be missed by any terms by anybody who cares for music.
Refreshing and Surprising!
Alberto G. Esposito | Jacksonville, FL USA | 11/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I would strongly recommend this collection to anyone who is seeking a new approach and sound world for these Mozart operas. Ostman opts for brisk tempi and transparent textures, but hardly ever at the expense of characterization or expressivity. The singers respond to the challenge with performances that bristle with excitement and fun. The cast blends with the orchestra like a chamber music ensemble, inspiring the listener to experience the opera as a conversation between the text and the intimations expressed in Mozart's musically and psychologically penetrating orchestration. Occasionally one may miss the lyric line and warmth associated with such great Mozart conductors as Bruno Walter or Karl Bohm; but the brio, virtousity, and brilliant insights of Ostman compensate with different kinds of rewards. Also, there is an intimate atmosphere in these recordings that is most faithful to the ethos and meaning of the libretti themselves. After listening to this period approach, my understanding of Mozart has changed radically, and I continue to relish the challenge that these performances have given to my interpretative sensibilities."