Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro; Don Giovanni; Così fan tutte

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Auvidis-Astrée
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro; Don Giovanni; Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Nicolas Rivenq, Véronique Gens, Hubert Claessens, Danielle Borst, Patrick Donnelly, Sophie Marin Degor La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy/Jean-Claude Malgoire
CATALOGUE NO: E 8606
With the big international symphony orchestras almost indistinguishable from each other, and the more established period bands quickly following suit, it’s refreshing to find a group such as Jean-Claude Malgoire’s La Grand Écurie et la Chambre du Roy still prepared to take risks with the way we perform the classics. As with their home territory of French Baroque music, their Mozart lives for the moment and the possibility of surprise, and at its best can be as authentic (in all sense of the term) as any of the more critically favoured interpretations.

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Their sound is lean, often brash, similar to Östman or early Hogwood. Like these distinguished Mozartians, Malgoire tends to think in short units rather than to shape the music’s long-range implications, but his brisk tempi, sharp rhythms and an irrepressible élan vital usually carry him through the stickier moments, and even the slower music is enriched by the kinds of inside-out textures which made the first attempts at period Mozart such an adventure.

Don’t expect state-of-the-art Mozartian singing either. Malgoire thinks of his Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing, the provenance of these recordings, as a workshop: consequently his singers are young, mainly Baroque specialists relatively new to Mozart. Several sing leading roles in all three operas and if there are no fully rounded portrayals here, there is much fine, thoughtful singing (as well as some that is blustery and unsupported).

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So by the usual standards these are flawed, hardly first-choice interpretations. But in their attempt to recapture something of the freshness of these works, this bargain-priced collection deserves a hearing.