Mozart: David, König in Jerusalem

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: David, König in Jerusalem
PERFORMER: Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Alison Browner (mezzo-soprano), Christian Elsner, Johannes Chum (tenor), Oliver Widmer (baritone), Franz-Josef Selig (bass), Bruno Ganz (speaker); Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/Leopold Hager
Mozart created his own pasticcio (Italian for ‘hotchpotch’) by cannibalising the unfinished Mass in C minor for a sacred cantata, Davidde penitente. Here opera director Richard Bletschacher makes a pasticcio of a pasticcio, decking out the Davidde penitente music with a German text and interleaving it with numbers from the König Thamos incidental music, a sprinkling of Mozart concert arias and readings from the Book of Samuel. The upshot is a ‘scenic oratorio’ on the life of King David, with the action recounted (by the gravelly Bruno Ganz) in the biblical texts and reflection and commentary from soloists and chorus.


Bletschacher’s aim was to ‘bring some of Mozart’s most beautiful works to the consciousness of a wider public’. Fair enough, except that for CD buyers all the music here is readily available in the form Mozart intended. So I don’t quite see the point of this cod oratorio. Inevitably, too, the music, however magnificent, often meshes uncomfortably with character and situation; and one or two of Bletschacher’s decisions make a nonsense of the composer’s originals, as when he divides a two-part aria between different characters, or, ludicrously, creates an independent number from a solo cadenza Mozart inserted into the final chorus of Davidde penitente.


If you’re still undeterred, Leopold Hager directs his forces reliably, if without any special imagination, while Sibylla Rubens, as the boy David and Bathsheba, and Johannes Chum are the best of a variable bunch of soloists. Orfeo provides full German texts but only a synopsis in English. A minority will doubtless plunge in, perhaps keeping a weather eye open for Haydn’s Jonah and JS Bach’s Last Judgement. Others will stick with Marriner (Philips) for Davidde penitente and Gardiner (DG Archiv) for König Thamos. Richard Wigmore