THE FIRST OF THE TWELVE discs in this collection of Anna Moffo’s RCA recital recordings begins with a 1960 performance of the jewel song from Gounod’s Faust, and that selection, along with the others on this disc, sets out the singer’s basic assets and liabilities. It’s a fresh lyric sound - Moffo was twenty-eight that year - ven throughout the range, accurate in pitch and coloratura, with a good try at a trill.
Are you ready for extreme 18th century keyboard? The typically sparse packaging graphics of this ECM release may indicate only to German speakers what's contained inside: a "Tangentenflügel" is a tangent piano, a rare keyboard instrument of Mozart's time that used hammers, striking the strings at a tangent, but no dampers. The sound combines qualities of a clavichord (its nearest relative, but the tangent piano is louder), a fortepiano, and a harpsichord.
This set includes two of the rarest and hardest to find of all recordings: the 1958-59 version of the Bach Cello Suites by Janos Starker – the one everyone says his later recordings cannot match – and the extremely beautiful performance of Bach's unaccompanied violin sonatas and partitas – the one that Japanese collectors pay 3-digit dollar prices for – in outstanding EMI Digital Re-Masterings.
Composed in 1778, J.C. Bach's La Clemenza di Scipione is a nice, direct, fat-free work. The arias tend to be short (not one of them is a da capo), the recitatives are to the point and likewise brief, and the action moves swiftly. Roman Scipio (tenor) has taken Cartagena and Spanish soprano princess Arsinda (and her soprano pal, Idalba) prisoner. Male soprano, fellow non-Roman Lucieo, is betrothed to Arsinda, while the Roman general Marzio (tenor) is in love with Idalba and vice-versa. The whole plot revolves around the heroic Lucieo's attempts to rescue Arsinda, et al., his being taken prisoner, and his being threatened by death if he refuses to pledge allegiance to Rome. He never does give in, but Scipio does–hence the clemency–and Scipio gives everyone their freedom once he realizes how impressive a gal Arsinda is. Everyone swears loyalty to Rome. Hooray! There's plenty of room for grief arias, anger arias, revenge arias, why-is-my-life-so-dreadful arias, and if-only-I-could-end-your(-my)-suffering arias, in many tempos.