WORKS: Così fan tutte
PERFORMER: Hillevi Martinpelto, Alison Hagley, Ann Murray, Kurt Streit, Gerald Finley, Thomas Allen; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 5 56170 2
The genesis of this recording can be traced back to Rattle’s performances with the OAE at Glyndebourne in 1991. Last year, two concert performances in London preceded this live recording at Symphony Hall and the result is a scintillating three hours of exceptional musical craftsmanship from all concerned. This is some of the finest orchestral playing in a Mozart opera that I have ever heard, with incisiveness, clarity and thrilling timbres from these players and their period instruments. Under Rattle, there are some unexpected but exciting tempi, with the OAE providing a consistently exhilarating body of string sound, plus inspired wind and brass obbligati and accompaniments which take the concept of musical frisson to a new dimension.
Streit’s Ferrando is vibrant and passionate: ‘Ah lo veggio’ is superb. Finley is a feisty Guglielmo. Hagley’s Dorabella has oodles of charm and Martinpelto delivers meltingly beautiful sound and phrasing – utterly hypnotic in ‘Per pietà’ – as Fiordiligi. ‘Fra gli amplessi’ and the finales to both acts are the most outstandingly impressive passages.
Murray lends a luscious mezzo depth to her spirited Despina, and Allen gives an unredeemably malicious, totally compelling characterisation of Alfonso. Throughout, every appoggiatura is in place and there are some delightful additional decorations. This is not just an exquisite Mozartian ensemble performance – this is pure magic.