Mozart: Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte & The Magic Flute - Klemperer (11 CDs)
This collection showcases four of Mozart’s most celebrated operas, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, with the inimitable Otto Klemperer at the helm. Featuring a host of star performers, including Lucia Popp as Despina, Elisabeth Söderström as Countess Almaviva and Nicolai Gedda as Tamino, these classic recordings demonstrate Klemperer’s supreme understanding of Mozart’s operas.
It was one of the bonuses of Klemperer’s indian Summer in the recording studio that he was able to record all three Mozart/Da Ponte operas, as well as Die Zauberflöte, a work for which he had a particularly deep affection. Die Zauberflöte was, he believed, a ‘perfect’ composition, albeit an inexhaustible one which no single production could ever hope to encompass. Sadly productions which he conducted in Berlin in 1929, Milan in 1950 and London in 1962 were all unsatisfactory in one way or another. Perhaps, in the end, it required what André Malraux called the ‘musée imaginaire’ of the gramophone to realise Klemperer’s dream of this ‘perfect’ work.
Klemperer’s 1964 recording of Die Zauberflöte came close to an ideal, despite the abridgements he imposed. Away from the theatre, he argued, no one wants to sit through the work’s lengthy spoken dialogue. Producer Walter Legge tried to persuade him otherwise but having made two previous dialogue-free recordings of the opera – with Beecham in Berlin in 1938 and Karajan in Vienna in 1950 – he was on shaky ground. The fact that the earlier recordings were made in the era of 78 rpm recording when time and space were at a premium cut no ice with Klemperer.
For the recording, Klemperer was working with a hand-picked cast which Legge confidently declared to be ‘as perfect as the world’s resource could yield’. A producer who casts the principal roles from strength and then has Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, and Marga Höffgen in reserve for the Three Ladies is entitled to make such a claim. The set was, and remains, a glorious achievement and, though Legge would leave EMI later that same year, the stage was set for Klemperer to continue to record the three Da Ponte operas. The first was Don Giovanni, an opera with which the demonically driven Klemperer had been closely associated throughout his career. Legge had engaged him to record the work with an outstanding cast in the autumn of 1959 but three days into the sessions Klemperer had been forced to withdraw with a severe attack of pericarditis. Carlo Maria Giulini took over the direction of what would become one of the most celebrated of all Mozart opera recordings. EMI continued to provide stellar casts for their Mozart recordings, none more so than that for Così fan tutte, a project which brought Klemperer’s career as a Mozart conductor full circle. The concert performance of Così fan tutte which he conducted in London on 21 February 1971 was to be his final operatic offering: a fitting end to a journey that had begun in a different age, and a very different world over half a century earlier.
Le nozze di Figaro, K492
recorded January 1970
Gabriel Bacquier (Count Almaviva), Elisabeth Söderström (Countess Almaviva), Reri Grist (Susanna), Geraint Evans (Figaro), Teresa Berganza (Cherubino), Annelies Burmeister (Marcellina), Werner Hollweg (Don Basilio), Willi Brokmeier (Don Curzio), Michael Langdon (Bartolo), Clifford Grant (Antonio), Margaret Price (Barbarina), Teresa Cahill, Kiri Te Kanawa (Two Girls)
New Philharmonia Orchestra, John Alldis Choir
Don Giovanni, K527
recroded June/July 1966
Nicolai Ghiaurov (Don Giovanni), Franz Crass (Commendatore), Claire Watson (Donna Anna), Nicolai Gedda (Don Ottavio), Christa Ludwig (Donna Elvira), Walter Berry (Leporello), Mirella Freni (Zerlina), Paolo Montarsolo (Masetto)"
New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Così fan tutte, K588
recorded February 1971
Margaret Price (Fiordiligi), Yvonne Minton (Dorabella), Luigi Alva (Ferrando), Geraint Evans (Guglielmo), Lucia Popp (Despina), Hans Sotin (Don Alfonso)
New Philharmonia Orchestra, John Alldis Choir
Die Zauberflöte, K620
recorded March/April 1964
Nicolai Gedda (Tamino), Gundula Janowitz (Pamina), Walter Berry (Papageno), Lucia Popp (Queen Of Night), Gottlob Frick (Sarastro), Franz Crass (Speaker), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (First Lady), Christa Ludwig (Second Lady), Marga Höffgen (Third Lady), Ruth-Margret Pütz (Papagena), Gerhard Unger (Monostatos), Karl Liebl (First Armed Man), Franz Crass (Second Armed Man), Gerhard Unger (First Priest), Franz Crass (Second Priest), Agnes Giebel (First Boy), Anna Reynolds (Second Boy), Josephine Veasey (Third Boy)
Philharmonia Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorus