The choice of repertoire is more or less predictable. There are no lesser known arias, and Gott sei Dank they have been grouped by opera but, within the operas, not in the order of appearance. The ordering of the operas seems haphazard, too. "What an ungrateful nit-picker!" I can hear readers mumble. "Of course they have decided the order to achieve as much variety as possible". But I am not so sure. Why, in that case, start the recital, after the Zauberflöte overture with two arias in a row sung by Russell Braun?
Claudio Abbado isn't a name one associates with early music, in light of his impressive career conducting the masterworks of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, he didn't conduct any music by J.S. Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic until as late as 1994. Yet when he's leading the talented Orchestra Mozart of Bologna in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, his ease with the music and his players is obvious, and the performances have almost as much Baroque style as many versions by period ensembles of greater longevity. Abbado led this ensemble in all six Brandenburgs in 2007 at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilio, and the live performances were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon with close attention to details, as befits chamber music.
The Haffner Serenade in D major was written in 1776 for Marie Elizabeth Haffner's wedding celebration and was commissioned by her brother Sigmund, later the recipient of the Haffner Symphony. Though this composition has elements of Mozart's symphonic style – particularly in its dramatic first and last movements, the grand Menuettos, and the sixth movement Andante – it is cast in eight movements of diverse character and has a casual ambience that belongs to the serenade. The violin solos in the second, third, and fourth movements lend a concertante air to this work, though they have a private quality unlike the bravura displays of the concerto style…
When this staging was presented in 1992, in various theatres, Gardiner decided to be his own director because he didn't trust any available alternative to be faithful to Da Ponte's and Mozart's original. In the circumstances his was a sensible decision because his deeply discerning stage interpretation perfectly seconds his own musically perceptive reading. His keen understanding of what this endlessly fascinating work is about is made plain in his absorbing essay in the booklet.
Mozart’s sublime tragic comedy offers boundless scope for directors, and Kasper Holten has chosen it to follow his directorial debut of Eugene Onegin. He wanted to shift the emphasis from Don Giovanni’s sex life into a darker place, showing Giovanni’s womanizing as an attempt to stave off his own mortality. Each woman he seduces represents a life he could have had. Though it is a dark piece, Holten handles it with a light touch and works with a superb cast – Mariusz Kwiecien, one of the world’s leading Don Giovannis, Alex Esposito, a fresh, vigorous Leporello and acclaimed French soprano Véronique Gens.
This pairing of concertos Nos 25 and 27, recorded with Chamber Orchestra of Europe, is Piotr Anderszewski’s third Warner Classics album of Mozart concertos. “In Mozart I tend to prefer to direct from the keyboard,” he explains, “His concertos are like chamber works … The piano is in dialogue with the orchestra, conversing and interacting all the time. The two works are very different… No 25 is very grand, complex and sophisticated; No 27, Mozart’s final piano concerto, is in a major key, but underneath it I sense an incredible sadness… It always amazes me how deep this music is.”
Everybody will know by now that Elizabeth Wallfisch has a special interest, affection and regard for the 17th- and 18th-century Italian violin schools. She has already recorded much music by the likes of Tartini, Corelli, Locatelli and others with her group, The Locatelli Trio, and also with The Raglan Baroque Players under Nicholas Kraemer. Here is a varied and fascinating collection of pieces by some of the lesser-known composers from a generation or two earlier than those composers.