LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: La clemenza di Tito
PERFORMER: Charles Castronovo, Vesselina Kasarova, Véronique Gens, Michelle Breedt, Alexia Voulgaridou, Paolo Battaglia; Bavarian Radio Choir; Munich Radio Orchestra/Pinchas Steinberg
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 83990 2
La clemenza di Tito, for so long the neglected step-child among Mozart’s mature operas, is now so much a part of the mainstream repertoire that this is the third new recording to appear within the past six months alone; and this year has additionally seen the DVD release of Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s staged 2003 Salzburg Festival performance. This latest account comes with the advantage of a strong female cast, with Véronique Gens a fine Vitellia, and a commanding Sextus from Vesselina Kasarova (though she was in better voice in the same role in the Salzburg DVD version). However, Charles Castronovo’s account of the title-role is rather wooden, and the Publius of Paolo Battaglia is vocally undistinguished. It’s a pity, too, that the obbligato clarinet part of Sextus’s great aria ‘Parto, parto’ is adapted for the normal instrument, and not played on the basset clarinet, which Mozart almost certainly intended.
Pinchas Steinberg’s wholesale cuts in the secco recitatives are no great loss, since Mozart farmed them out to his pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr, but the performance as a whole rather lacks intensity. For the full dramatic impact (and the complete recitatives), René Jacobs’s Harmonia Mundi recording is an obvious choice, but I have a marginal preference for Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s superbly cast and very well conducted 1993 version. RCA’s decision not to provide a readily-accessible libretto for this new recording – you have to print it out yourself from a computer file included on the first CD – isn’t exactly user-friendly. Misha Donat