Mozart: La clemenza di Tito

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: La clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozena, Rainer Trost, Hillevi Martinpelto, Lisa Milne, Christine Rice, John Relyea; Scottish CO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5793
It’s only in comparatively recent years that Mozart’s last opera has achieved the recognition it deserves. Its long neglect was no doubt partly due to the fact that, under pressure of work, Mozart farmed out the secco recitatives to an assistant – probably Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who later completed the Requiem. Yet the musical numbers find Mozart at the height of his powers, with an almost unbroken succession of great arias and ensembles – two of the former provided with elaborate obbligato parts written for his friend Anton Stadler, whose playing inspired his famous Clarinet Quintet and Concerto.

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This new recording comes with the advantage of Charles Mackerras’s stylish conducting, and a commanding performance of the central role of Sextus by Magdalena Kožená. Her singing of the great Act II rondo ‘Deh per questo istante’ is deeply affecting. The smaller parts of Sextus’s sister Servilia, his friend Annius and the prefect Publius are well sung, too, by Lisa Milne, Christine Rice and John Relyea. But the Rainer Trost’s Titus sounds somewhat strained and lifeless; and while Hillevi Martinpelto’s Vitellia is vocally as sound as you could wish, she’s dramatically rather pale. The emotions at play – anger, jealousy, remorse – are more vividly conveyed on Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s recording, with a superb Vitellia from Lucia Popp, and Philip Langridge and Ann Murray in fine form as Titus and Sextus. But you should also try to hear the 1976 version by Colin Davis, sadly deleted at present, with a dream cast including Janet Baker, Yvonne Minton and Federica von Stade, and with Popp this time as Servilia. Misha Donat