Mozart Grabmusik; Bastien und Bastienne
Anna Lucia Richter, Jacques Imbrailo, Alessandro Fisher, Darren Jeffery; Classical Opera; The Mozartists/Ian Page
Signum Classics SIGCD 547 66:24 mins
By the time he was 11 years old Mozart was quite an accomplished composer, and this recording contains two of the five significant works he wrote in the period 1767-68. The first, Grabmusik (music sung at a memorial of Christ’s grave), contains one of the most difficult arias he ever wrote for bass voice – ‘Felsen, spaltet euren Rachen’. It is only moderately successful here since, although Jacques Imbrailo (as ‘Soul’) has a strong and warm voice, he is sometimes unfocused as to pitch and rhythm. Anna Lucia Richter (as the ‘Angel’) is sweeter and more in control, but the best recording of this work is in the Brilliant Classics Complete Mozart edition with Thomas Hampson and Edith Wiens. That version also has an organ continuo, which is more plausible than the tinkling harpsichord employed here.
This recording of the tale of two lovelorn rustics, Bastien und Bastienne, is more interesting. It seems to be the first presentation of Mozart’s original setting since its premiere in Vienna in the house of Dr Mesmer 250 years ago, and it retains the original spoken dialogues but has none of the recitatives added later. The orchestra is the star of the show. Ian Page draws from the players mercurial changes of mood in the relatively perfunctory items – especially in the magician Colas’ mock-horror aria ‘Tätzel, Brätzel’ (Mozart later changed these words to ‘Dingi dingi’). The singers – Anna Lucia Richter (Bastienne), Alessandro Fisher (Bastien), Darren Jeffry (Colas) – are engaging but sometimes under represent the plot’s playfulness.