Sabine Devieilhe and Pygmalion sing Mozart

'Made my fingers itch for the off-button'

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: ‘The Weber Sisters’: Les petits riens – Overture; Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’; Adagio in F; Schon lacht der holde Frühling; Thamos, König in Agypten entr’acte; The Magic Flute – March of the Priests; Der Hölle Rache; Solfeggio in G; Great Mass in C minor – Et incarnatus est, etc
PERFORMER: Sabine Devieilhe (soprano); Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon
CATALOGUE NO: 2564601625

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This is a Mozart potpourri, a selection of arias sacred and secular and songs interspersed with instrumental numbers. In layout and style it has two aims: to show off the high-soprano talents of Sabine Devieilhe, rapidly establishing herself as one of France’s young stars; and to create a narrative-in-music illustrating Mozart’s relationship with three of the four Weber sisters Josepha and Aloysia were both professional sopranos and Mozart married Constanze.

As the latter, it comes across as not only casually achieved but also irritatingly arch and frou-frou in presentation and, at times, in the actual singing. Devieilhe’s delivery, for instance, of the little French song Dans un bois solitaire made my fingers itch for the off-button. And the magnificent ‘Et incarnatus est’ from the unfinished C minor Mass, K427, ends with a joke-surprise that may prove tedious on repetition.

On the other hand, the concert-aria and operatic readings themselves are gems, each one thrown off with a splendid combination of technical brilliance, musicianly assurance and tonal sweetness, and impeccably supported by the period-instrument band. This is a CD I’ll want to rehear – having each time programmed out the tiresome bits in advance.

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Max Loppert