GHCD 2373/74/75 – Mozart – Le Nozze di Figaro (1956), Bastien und Bastienne (1953)
Karl Pilss (harpsichord) Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Symphoniker, Karl Böhm (conductor), Rita Streich (Susanna), Walter Berry (Figaro)
American Record Guide – May/June 2012
MOZART: Marriage of Figaro; Bastien und Bastienne
This historical issue offers a monaural Salzburg Figaro, vintage 1956, and also a 1953 production of the early singspiel Bastien und Bastienne, a work Mozart composed in 1768 at the ripe old age of 12. Karl Böhm directs Figaro, while John Pritchard is on the podium for the other 50 minutes.
Figaro was a Böhm specialty. I heard it two years later. Over the years, its magic has faded, and it would now be challenged by a sensational full color digital video by Unitel with Fischer-Dieskau, Te Kanawa, Prey, and Freni taking the major roles. The Cherubino of the century is Maria Ewing.
But this is a fine performance with many strengths and minor weaknesses. There is a strong cast, with no obvious weaknesses, and a great conductor and orchestra—a historic document.
This brings us to Bastien und Bastienne, a work I’ve never heard before. It is sung, played and conducted by a team that is if anything overqualified. It is of course sung in German, though it’s clear and understandable to anyone familiar with the lingo. But there is one odd fact about its overture, a brief piece that lasts only 1:38. Before you get far into it you will hear music that is very familiar, and it is not usually credited to Mozart. It is the principal theme of the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3—that’s right, the Eroica. Do you suppose that the resemblance is purely coincidental?
Guild’s production presents only the discs and a listing of tracks and timings. Even so, this is easy to like and a cinch to recommend.
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