L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 01/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EMI had been incredibly consistent with their Mozart opera recordings in the 1950's. Of course, their great fortune was to have conductors like Van Karajan, Giulini, and Furtwangler under contract. It was an age of great Mozart singers---Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Anton Dermota, Irmgard Seefried, Sena Jurinac, and Leopold Simoneau - all of whom recorded for EMI. By 1954, Schwarzkopf and Von Karajan were already big ticket talent at EMI (they also had exclusive contracts with Maria Callas, Victoria de los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe di Stefano ---- seven-eighths of the greatest opera singers in the world at the time). This recording of Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" comes from the height of that period, and it's very impressive indeed. Von Karajan's musicians make the most of Mozart's lush music, and the entire performance has a "float" to it that I find eludes other presentations of this opera. The legendary and gifted Schwarzkopf sings a beautiful Fiordiligi ---her "Come Scoglio" a real piece of virtuoso singing covering a span of two and a half octaves. Her singing throughout the opera is exemplary (I cannot understand one critic years ago referred to her performance as "pufferies of sound"---he's dead wrong!). Schwarzkopf is well contrasted by Nan Merriman's Dorabella. Merriman was an American mezzo who frequently sang at the Met, and who could reach impressive vocal and interpretive heights when surrounded by artists of the caliber encountered in this performance. I know of no tenor recorded in the role of Ferrando who sounds as honeyed and lyrically beautiful as Leopold Simoneau -------this French-Canadian tenor was surely one of the great Mozart singers of virtually any generation. Rolando Panerai's light baritone is ideal for Guglielmo (Panerai was a used by EMI in a good share of their earliest Callas operas - and always made a good impression), and his sense of comedy is apt and highly appropriate in a role which, to be most effective, can't be overdone. Sesto Bruscantini, with his extensive experience in the buffo operas of Rossini, provides a robust Don Alfonso, and Lisa Otto is a cute and incisive Despina. EMI is to be commended for making this wonderful performance available at such an inexpensive price. When it comes to Mozart operas, especially with the recordings EMI made in the 1950's, older is definitely better! Now ---- they need to release their legendary recording of "Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail" with Leopold Simoneau. Highly recommended."
Karajan versus Bohm in Cosi
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Whereas EMI was fortunate enough to make one Don Giovanni and one Marriage of Figaro for the ages, both under Giulini, they achieved mixed results with two versions of Cosi fan tutte. Neither is an obvious first choice, so I thought it was worthwhile comparing their respective pluses and minuses.
Karajan (1954): This mono recording is in good enough sound to compete successfully with Bohm's stereo version, with the singers placed very close up. They achieve a great deal of intimacy and nuance. Karajan favors tempo extremes, taking Schwarzkopf's two big arias, as well as her opening duet with Merriman, quite slowly. Stylistically, his approach is ultra-suave, which yields benefits in Bruscantini's sly urbanity as Don Alfonso, for example, but in the long run proves more than a little precious. As Fiordiligi, Schwarzkopf is younger and fresher than in Bohm's set, but there she has gained in artistry. Simoneau and Panerai are great as the two heros, probably the best pair on records. Nan Merriman as Dorabella is musically satisfying, but she has a fast beat in her voice that wears after a while.
Bohm (1963): This later performance is in good stereo, with the voices placed further from the mike than in Karajan's recording. Where Karajan is suave, Bohm is blunt. He misses many opportunities for subtle phrasing, yet given the choice, I'd rather hear his plain-faced Cosi than Karajan's overly sophisticated one. As to tempos, bohm is rrelaxed and often just as slow as Karajan--period performances from Ostmann, Gardiner and Jacobs go much faster. In the Karajan set the men were stronger than the laides; here it's the reverse. Schwarzkopf and Ludwig make ideal sisters, unrivalled for their musicality, even if Schwarzkopf can no longer quite negotiate Fiodiligi's cruelly difficult arias. The male pair are certainly good, but I find Alfredo Kraus's voice dry and his manner stiff; Taddei is fine, howevr. Walter Berry makes for a bluff Don Alfonso without a trace of Bruscantini's sly malice.
Naturally, thee's much more to say in detail, but I think I've given a fair sketch of the two performances. I've lived with both for a long time, and it pains me to say that on balance I prefer Karl Bohm, even though he is far from being a favorite conductor. The comvinaiton of Schwarzkopf and Ludwig carries the day."
Una de la mejores interpretaciones en CD del Cosi fan tutte
P. Emilio Rossi | Caracas, Venezuela | 11/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Esta es una de las mejores interpretaciones en CD del Cosi Fan tutte, en compañìa de la versión de Böhm de 1962. Uno de los méritos fundamentales de esta excelsa grabación es la magnífica dirección de Karajan. El maestro austriaco se demuestra en todo momento como un estilista consumado, obtiene timbres orquestales sugerentes y refinados, construye y define adecuadamente lo que es el "dramma giocoso", con gracia, con humor y justos toques de seriedad, todo con una elegante presición. Cuenta, por lo demás, con un cast abolutamente modélico; Elizabeth Schwarzkopf es considerada unánimemente por todos los criticos musicales como la intérprete de referencia del rol de Fiordiligi, por su imponente modo de esculpir y modelar las frases con un estilo y elegancia de fraseo espectaculares. Leopold Simoneau, es un Ferrando sutil e insinuante, ideal por su voz leve, clara y robusta a la vez. Es junto a Alfredo Kraus, de la versión Böhm 1962, el mejor intérprete histórico de este rol. Lisa Otto configura con musicalidad, vitalidad y fino humor una Despina excelente. Sesto Bruscantini, es sin duda el Don Alfonso de referencia, por su fina ironia y discreta elegancia, aunado a la belleza de su voz baritonal y excelente técnica. Rolando Panerai es el barítono brillante que todo aficionado serio a la opera conoce a la perfección. Excelente técnica, fraseo inteligente e incisivo, en suma un Guglielmo de referencia. Quizás el punto un poco mas debil del cast sea la Dorabella de Nan Merriman, pero solo si se la compara con el resto del cast, ya que se trata de una fina artista, muy musical y de excelente estilo (es necesario recordar que fue una de las artistas preferidas del gran Arturo Toscanini). En suma un clásico absoluto de la discografia, reconocido casi por unanimidad, por toda la crítica especializada y por los mozartianos en particular. Sería interesante comprarla junto a la versión de Böhm de 1962, ya que las dos son complementarias y no excluyentes."
Overrated, but decent
Irene Adler | Seattle, WA | 03/29/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As a whole, this recording isn't bad at all. As far as quality of sound goes, while it definitely shows its age, you probably wouldn't notice unless you compared it side-by-side with a modern recording.
My biggest complaint about this recording is the merciless abridgement. It seems like the powers that be were more interested in getting from aria to aria as quickly as possible, and so the recitatives were butchered to that end. That rankles me to no end, because opera isn't just about pretty music, it's about drama too! And the recitatives are an integral part of the drama. Ferrando's beautiful aria "Ah lo veggio" fell victim to this abridgement as well. Though that didn't stop me from considering Bohm's version as the best "first Cosi," there's just not enough merit in the rest of Karajan's recording to compensate for such a huge loss.
In regards to Schwarzkopf's performances as Fiordiligi, I think the Bohm version is far better. Though her voice is fresher and lighter here, I think the maturity and experience she gained by the Bohm recording fits Fiordiligi's character a lot better. This is not to say that her Karajan performance is mediocre, just not quite as marvelous.
Another thing that really bugs me about this recording is that this Don Alfonso sounds much too young, certainly too young to be so cynical. I prefer the more mainstream, mature Don Alfonso (like Cachemaille). I'm also not overly fond of their choice for Despina, who pronunces words funny. It's a really small matter, but it bugs me (kinda like how Kathleen Battle's Despina-with-American-accent bugs me).
Basically, this recording is worth getting if you already own Bohm's, Jacobs', Mackerras' and Solti's recordings. The only reason to get this recording is to hear the young Schwarzkopf, because there's nothing else there."
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 06/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have lived for years with the Bohm recording as my favourite "Cosi", always with a sideways longing glance towards the neglected Lombard set on Erato (see my review), but the latter really is too languorous at times - and that might be what you would expect of Karajan, too, but you would be wrong. He starts pacy and sprightly and so it continues, never rushed but beautifully pointed and taut - whereas Bohm can sometimes lack subtlety. So my recent re-acquaintance with this set has made me question my loyalty to Bohm. At first, one wonders whether some of the singing and playing might be a little understated; everything is so subtly and delicately underscored without any hint of vulgarity - and of course, the orchestral playing is of the highest quality, the Philharmonia of this period comprising some of the greatest wind players of their era, including Denis Brain on horn. If you like your Mozart on period instruments rattled off at breakneck speed, this recording is not for you, but I must emphasise that there is no lack of pace or tension in this performance. All the soloists have exceptionally fleet, light, sweet voices with that old-fashioned, quick, flickering vibrato now out of fashion and they are masters of the text. Bruscantini is much lighter of voice than the Don Alfonsos to which we have become accustomed today and his is a beautifully shaded, cynical yet affectionate, characterisation. I am not always fond of Schwarzkopf, but here she is in freshest, purest voice, largely free of mannerisms and even better than ten years later with Bohm. Merriman is a perfect foil, with her warm, vibrant mezzo, and Simoneau is simply the best Ferrando on record. Panerai provides wonderful support, and even though I still marginally prefer the perfect Steffek as Despina in the later set, Otto is pert, pretty and funny.
The mono sound is clean and forward without distortion. However, the alternative Naxos issue is even cheaper than this or the "Great Recordings of the Century" versions on EMI and I cannot imagine that the EMI is any better re-mastered - and you have a bonus selection of Schwarzkopf arias to boot. So go for the Naxos and enjoy a connoisseur's performance of some of the most sublime music ever written."