The greatest of Mozart's wind serenades and the toughest of Alban Berg's major works might seem an unlikely pairing, but in an interview included with the sleeve notes for this release, Pierre Boulez points up their similarities. Both works are scored for an ensemble of 13 wind instruments (with solo violin and piano as well in the Berg) and both include large-scale variations as one of their movements - and Boulez makes the comparisons plausible enough in these lucid performances. It's rare to hear him conducting Mozart, too, and if the performance is a little brisker and more strait-laced than ideal, the EIC's phrasing is a model of clarity and good taste. It's the performance of the Berg, though, that makes this such an important issue; both soloists, Mitsuko Uchida and Christian Tetzlaff, are perfectly attuned to Boulez's approach - they have given a number of performances of the Chamber Concerto before - and the combination of accuracy and textural clarity with the highly wrought expressiveness that is the essence of Berg's music is perfectly caught.
Critical acclaim for this superb co-production of Vienna's Staatsoper, the Wiener Festwochen and Brussels' Théâtre de la Monnaie (Das Opernglas): "Directors Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann, working with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, demonstrate that the 'Entführung' is fully on the level of Mozart's Da Ponte operas and 'Zauberflöte'. In the harmony of staging and music, this is one of the most impressive Mozart performances Vienna has offered in a long time… Breaking with tradition, it seeks to fulfil his intentions as closely as possible."
Set in the exotic seraglio of the Pasha Selim, the story revolves around the rescue of the lovely Constanze by her lover Belmonte – a tale of love, bravery and forgiveness. In this work, Mozart breaks new ground in introducing dramatically rounded characters with recognisably human feelings and weaknesses. The work influenced and changed the nature of opera throughout Europe. This charming production from Drottningholm does full justice to Mozart’s score. Arnold Östman’s deliberate conducting combined with Carl Friedrich Oberle’s design demonstrates that this really is “an eternal masterpiece of music drama by a youthful, exuberant composer who suddenly found his individual voice and style in the field of opera with this particular work” (Opera now)
Die Zauberflöte is the artistic and philosophical testament of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who died a few weeks after the work’s première in Vienna. Intertwining music of awesome purity and beauty with the conventions of the singspiel - a popular form of musical comedy – Mozart’s final operatic legacy to the world explores Man’s search for the truth and his confusion between the forces of dark and light and the final utopian resolution of seemingly irreconcilable elements. Because of the opera’s relationship to freemasonry, commentators have identified Tamino with the Emperor Joseph II, Pamina with the Austrian people, Sarastro with Ignaz von Born, Monostatos with the clergy and the Queen of the Night with the Empress Maria Theresa. Whichever level one approaches Die Zauberflöte on, it remains a great work in the spirit of the Enlightenment as well as a delightful fairy-tale. Nothing is so simple as to be absolutely clear-cut. In life, the serious and the comic often intermingle in a way that is disconcerting. In Die Zauberflöte, Mozart succeeds in combining these two elements in a way which has never been surpassed. The light and vibrant presentation of the Scandinavian cast - internationally renowned bass Lászlo Polgár is the only non-Scandinavian soloists – the authentic staging and the lean orchestra sound conducted by the illustrious Arnold Östman makes this performance definitely one of the best Zauberflöte-performances of the 20th century.
Idomeneo, King of Crete, has been away from home during the long years of the Trojan War. Idamante, his son, now regent of the island, waits for his return, heralded by the arrival of Trojan prisoners in Crete. One of these prisoners is Ilia, daughter of the murdered King Priam of Troy. Idamante has fallen in love with Ilia, but is loved by Electra, daughter of the Greek King, Agamemnon, who is taken refuge in Crete. The Drottningholm Court Theatre is a tiny and exquisite rococo theatre, the only surviving eighteenth-century theatre in Europe in perfectly-preserved working order. The Swedish conductor and musicologist Arnold Östman became the theatre’s director in 1981 and introduced an orchestra of original instruments playing an authentic style to complement the unique atmosphere of his surroundings and he has steadily built up a worldwide reputation for his authentic interpretation of Mozart. This revised revival of the acclaimed 1986 Drottningholm production by Michael Hampe conducted by Arnold Östman, was staged during the Mozart Bicentenary year. Combining both tragedy and comedy with drama, Idomeneo boasts a series of superbly expressive pieces which Einstein described as “one of those works that even a genius of the highest rank, like Mozart, could write only once in his life.”
Mozart’s charming opera tells the story of a Countess who disguises herself as a gardener in order to find and forgive her lover, who thinks he has killed her in a quarrel. The score is one of real musical delights with uncommonly rich and full orchestration and prominent parts for wind in particular. Arnold Östman conducts this Göran Järvefelt production in which the countes is played by Britt-Marie Aruhn.
Premiered not very successfully, in Prague on September 6th 1791, La Clemenza di Tito had turned into a considerable triumph within a month and was the first Mozart opera to be heard in London in 1806. The opera celebrates one man’s wisdom and regal benevolence and his struggle to maintain clemency no matter what the provocation. Vitellia, daughter of the deposed Emperor, believes the title of Empress to be hers by right of birth. Despite her love for Tito she seeks revenge when he plans to marry another. A dreadful conspiracy begins to unfold where passion overrides loyalty, and integrity is tested to the extreme. For his last opera, written for the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia in 1791, Mozart used a formal opera seria libretto, but at its heart are intimate scenes of intense emotional conflicts.
The old philosopher Don Alfonso enrages his two friends, the officers Ferrando and Guglielmo, with his claim that their fiancées will sooner or later be unfaithful to them - like all women. He proposes a wager, which the two friends accept. They swear on their honour as soldiers that they will prove him wrong and that Dorabella and Fiordiligi are not like “all women”. The immaculately restored eighteenth-century Court Theatre at the country residence of the Swedish Royal Family is the ideal home for period opera. Ever since Drottningholm Court Theatre was rediscovered in the 1920s, it has served as a living memorial to the fabulous extravagance of courtly entertainment and provided the wherewithal for the recreation of the spectacular scenic transformations of the seventeenth and eighteenth century operatic repertoire. The conductor Arnold Östman was appointed Drottningholm’s Artistic Director in 1980 and immediately set about establishing a Drottningholm Mozart style, attempting to recapture an authentic flavour through detailed historical research and the use of period instruments. He collaborates with German producer Willy Decker on this ever-popular Mozart comedy with an extensively rehearsed cast of young Swedish singers who “…proved a triumph of stylish teamwork, with singers and orchestra listening to each other, almost as it were breathing together.” (Daily Telegraph)