WORKS: Don Giovanni
PERFORMER: Andreas Schmidt, Alastair Miles, Amanda Halgrimson, Lynne Dawson, John Mark Ainsley, Gregory Yurisich, Nancy Argenta, Gerald Finley; Schütz Choir of London, London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 7 54859 2 DDD
Don Giovanni is the most Romantic of all Mozart’s operas, but it loses nothing through an imaginative period-instrument performance such as this one. Indeed the leaner, fitter sonorities only serve to heighten its intensity. Roger Norrington’s is a natural, unforced account, relying on purely musical means to project the drama and maintaining tension through an apt choice of tempi and a deft, conversational handling of recitative. Happily, too, he resists the temptation to make ‘revelatory’ musicological points through extremes of tempo or textural oddities. There is certainly no lack of gravity (listen to the overture, properly awe-inspiring with a sense of impending catastrophe) and no lack of urgency. Only occasionally, as in the Commendatore’s jaunty death agony and a pedestrian Champagne aria, does Norrington miscalculate.
He’s well complemented by a fresh, young team of singers lead by Andreas Schmidt’s suave Giovanni and Gregory Yurisich’s benevolent Leporello. They may not offer such richly rounded characterisations as the notable exponents of yore, but their singing is unfailingly stylish and perfectly matched with Norrington’s essentially non-interventionist approach.
An added attraction of this fine set is a facility for programming in either version – the original Prague or the slightly later Vienna – sanctioned by Mozart without having to jump CDs (the pioneering but less satisfying rival period-instrument performance from Arnold Östman on L’Oiseau-Lyre consigns the Vienna variants to an appendix on a separate CD). Strongly recommended.