JC Bach: La clemenza di Scipione

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: JC Bach
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: La clemenza di Scipione
PERFORMER: Linda Perillo, Christine Wolff, Jörg Waschinski, Markus Schäfer, Hans Jörg Mammel; Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
CATALOGUE NO: 999 791-2
La clemenza di Scipione was the last of the half-dozen operas JC Bach wrote for the King’s Theatre in London. In the year it was produced – 1778 – Bach met up with his friend Mozart in Paris. The striking manner in which Bach’s overture is integrated into the opening number of the new opera seems to have rubbed off on Mozart’s Die Entführung; and its elaborate soprano aria with solo parts for flute, oboe, violin and cello is a clear forerunner of Konstanze’s famous ‘Martern aller Arten’. La clemenza di Scipione probably hasn’t been heard complete since its first run (the lost secco recitatives were supplied for this performance by the late Ernest Warburton), but if you’re hoping to find a rediscovered masterpiece, don’t hold your breath: there are one or two impressive numbers in the third act, but for the rest, as one cheerful allegro succeeds another with blissful disregard for the unfolding tragedy, it’s difficult not to feel that Bach was on automatic pilot.

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No complaints about the performance, though, with its lively orchestral playing and a cast that copes admirably with the demanding coloratura writing. Jörg Waschinski’s agile male soprano voice, in particular, is remarkable. Misha Donat