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Recordings

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!
18 Nov 2007

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!

Released in celebration of the recent Mozart year, Tutto Mozart! is a collection of nineteen arias, duets and other ensembles from the composer’s operas that feature the baritone Bryn Terfel.

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!

Bryn Terfel, Miah Persson, Christine Rice, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras

Deutsche Grammophon 477 5886 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

This recording is a fine opportunity for those familiar with Terfel’s voice to appreciate the depth of Mozart roles the singer has performed over the years, which includes familiar characters like Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, title character and Leporello in Don Giovanni. At the same time, this recording, which was made in April 2006, affords listeners the opportunity to hear Terfel performing some fine examples from Così fan tutte, Bastien und Bastienne, as well as selections from Mozart’s concert arias. It is an excellent opportunity to hear Terfel perform music in which he excels, since he has a voice and stage presence to make characters like Papageno come alive. In the excerpt included in this recording, Miah Persson offers a well-articulated Papagena to Terfel’s fine performance. In working well together, the enunciation of the texts is clear and points to that aspect of Terfel’s approach to this literature in balancing the text with the musical phrases. The excerpt that follows, the first-act “Catalogue” aria from Don Giovanni, Terfel shapes the well-known text to give meaning – however ironic or humorous – to Don Giovanni’s list of questionable accomplishments. As an popular Leporello on stage, Terfel’s experience in the role is apparent in this recording, and his phrasing of the middle section of the “Catalogue” aria is memorable for its nuanced interpretation of this quintessential number from Don Giovanni.

In material less often heard or, in some cases, not always associated with Terfel, their inclusion in this recording makes Tutto Mozart! more than a compilation of famous pieces extracted from their sources. Some little-known pieces are highly effective in Terfel’s performances, such as “Io ti lascio,” K. Anh. 245 (621a), a piece associated with another composer, Gottfried von Jaquin. Yet the more often heard concert arias are a fine source of music for this collection, with “Così dunque tradisci” an effective piece for baritone, and performed well by Terfel.

In some cases the less familiar selections include music associated with Mozart, such as “Nun, liebes Weibchen,” a number in the collectively composed opera Der Stein der Weisen, which Benedikt Schack composed and Mozart orchestrated. A case may be made for comprehending Mozart’s achievement in Die Zauberflöte in the context of the earlier work, Der Stein der Weisen, and with the inclusion of “Nun, liebes Weibchen” in this recording, the idiom in which Mozart worked becomes evident. In following this selection with “Der Vogelfänger bin ich, ja” from Die Zauberflöte, the style of vocal writing associated with Viennese Singspiel in Mozart’s circle becomes evident as a vehicle for expressing the humor of situations and helping to flesh out characters. As much as Singspiel could involve stock characters, it took a composer like Mozart to bring the idiom closer to opera in this regard. Along these lines, then the details that Terfel brings to performance are useful in showing the full power of Mozart’s music, even in works associated with a lighter, perhaps, more popular style.

As such, Tutto Mozart! also offers audiences the chance to hear the way in which Mozart shaped the vocal demands for the baritone in some of his most influential works. While the role assigned the baritone in the composer’s early comic opera Bastien und Bastienne may be relatively perfunctory when compared to some of Mozart’s later baritone roles, especially those found in the Da Ponte works, the inclusion of music between the early and late Mozart is useful in presenting a fuller image of the roles of the baritone in this repertoire. The Don Alfonso of Mozart’s Così fan tutte has much more nuanced vocal demands that emerge well in the terzettino “Sovae sia il vento,” which involves Terfel, Persson, and Christine Rice. The three singers work well in this piece, and represent a nicely rehearsed ensemble.

This is a worthwhile addition to recent Mozart recordings and contributes nicely to the recorded legacy of Bryn Terfel. One should not need a Mozart anniversary to find such a well—thought selection of music, and of the various projects recently completed, this one should stand well for years as testimony of Terfel’s talent and a tribute to the art of the baritone. As with Charles Mackeras’s other performances of Mozart’s music, the interpretations are convincing, and the performances refined. The phrasing, articulations, and overall ensemble playing are appropriate to the fine music-making found on this CD.

James L. Zychowicz

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