Mozart: Mitridate (excerpts); Rè di Ponto (excerpts); Ascanio in Alba (excerpts); La Betulia liberata (excerpts)

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LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Mitridate (excerpts); Rè di Ponto (excerpts); Ascanio in Alba (excerpts); La Betulia liberata (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto) Moscow Virtuosi/Vladimir Spivakov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68187 2 DDD
Truly rare Mozart is hard to find these days. Nathalie Stutzmann offers four arias from Mitridate (virtually the whole role of Farnace), three from Ascanio in Alba, and two from La Betulia liberata. She concludes with the rondo ‘Ombra felice’ (K255) and ‘Io ti lascio’, a thin piece from 1788 in which Mozart may only have collaborated (KAnh245). With all but the last (composed for bass), she stakes a claim for the alto castrato repertoire, colonised by today’s more virile countertenor falsettists. She is a contralto of unusual richness; in this Italianate repertoire there are shades of 1950s Handel. However, Stutzmann includes ornaments with touching fidelity to the New Mozart Edition, and the fast tempi sound quite modern. Yet with the strength of line goes, with few exceptions, a lack of expressive involvement in the dramatic qualities of the music. Even on a purely musical level I found the performances striking rather than appealing; perhaps she should stick to later repertoire (her other recordings range from Schumann to Ravel). Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi are occasionally unstable in rhythm and the acceleration in ‘Ombra felice’, marked only at the third statement, is spoiled by anticipation. Julian Rushton