LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
PERFORMER: Richard Croft, Bernarda Fink, Sunhae Im, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Kenneth Tarver, Nicolas Rivenq, Luca Tittoto; RIAS Chamber Choir; Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902036-38 plus bonus DVD
If you loved René Jacobs’s La clemenza di Tito, with its uncut recitatives and its richly inventive continuo playing, then you’ll be likely to love this Idomeneo.
Jacobs is even more close-focused on the recitatives here. In fact, he very much takes the part of Mozart’s librettist, Giambattista Varesco, trusting his dramaturgy implicitly. Jacobs here gives us everything Mozart originally wrote, uncut, and in the order he intended it. Those recitatives flash by, tense with the drama of both anticipation and recall. And the palette of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is exquisitely tuned to the pity and the fear within the ancient tale it tells.
So, nearly a five-star choice. But the orchestra is placed far forward in the recording, and at times threatens to upstage the singers. And the cast is not perfect – what Idomeneo ever is?
Jacobs’s strongest players are the superb Idamante of Bernarda Fink: tender, ardent and in touch with every nerve-ending of every beautifully shaped phrase. Alexandrina Pendatchanska, from her blazing top register to the dark depths of her voice, is a thrilling Elettra. I find Sunhae Im’s Ilia too girlish of timbre and Richard Croft’s Idomeneo is too laid-back.
An informative bonus DVD includes glimpses of the recording sessions. With Anne Sofie von Otter and Anthony Rolfe Johnson in tow, John Eliot Gardiner’s Idomeneo is a plausible alternative for those not won over by Jacobs. Hilary Finch