Reviews for IPCD 1004-2
Mozart: Cosi fan tutti
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sena Jurinac (sop) Fiordiligi; Isa Quensel (sop) Despina; Alice Howland (mez) Dorabella; Richard Lewis (ten) Ferrando; Marko Rothmuller (bar) Guglielmo; Sesto Bruscantini (bs-bar) Don Alfonso / Fritz Busch
Performance of July 5, 1951; rec. Glyndebourne Opera House, Sussex
(2 CDs) Immortal Performances IPCD 1004-2.
ORPHEUS magazine, MUSIK & MARKT
September / October 2009
Richard Caniell, tireless champion of historic opera recordings and longtime producer of outstanding restorations on Naxos and Guild, furthermore avid collector of rare vocal and live recordings (see Photo IP), has issued a new and for the first time his own CD-label of historic recordings: Immortal Performances offering largely known but also new, sensationally transferred material. My colleague Sternberg will deal below with the “weighty” repertoire while I keep cheering for the newly transferred COSI FAN TUTTE from Glyndebourne 1951 which was available from Guild for a while and which now - originating as a live performance privately recorded by the Busch family – after a somewhat boxy, dull overture – sounds fresh as if it were a radio broadcast of yesterday. Caniell has always been good at producing a really fresh sound and immense vocal plasticity – here we can experience it in reality almost as if the singers appeared straight out of the living room loudspeakers and the orchestra is heard with a sound of unaccustomed depth - and what an orchestra !
The Royal Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by FRITZ BUSCH, and his absolutely adventurous spry tempi cause us to anticipate - already in the overture - his fresh and refreshing conception which - way before Minkowski or Harnancourt - relates an unsentimental, youthful and palpitating story. And how about his cast ! Wonderful SENA JURINAC heard here in 1951 as Fiordiligi with her silvery jubilating luminous voice the way she is no longer heard in later recordings; as she herself has said there were fateful blows and overexertion of her voice which robbed her of this initial silvery sound, giving us and herself later the characteristic dark, viscous soprano voice so rich in pathos. Here she is still heard in all her innocence, her unbelievable youthfulness - the Rondo “Per Pieta” has hardly ever again been heard with such urgent longing yet girlishness.
Along with her there is a more than competent crew with the surprise of ALICE HOWLAND as a soprano-colored Dorabella , up to now unknown to me and here appearing delightfully as a sort of dark half of Jurinac's voice. RICHARD LEWIS was never one of my favorites but here he appears as a serious Ferrando; MARKO ROTHMUELLER , so popular in England, sings a striking Guglielmo. SESTO BRUSCANTINI - at the time Jurinac's husband - is heard for the first time as the sarcastic Machiavellian Alfonso, and ISA QUENSEL performs the vivacious Despina in the tradition of that time. Two solid articles about the artists and the work complete this thrilling recording which has been revolving uninterruptedly for weeks on my CD-player.
Cosi fan tutti
Orchestra and Chorus of the Glyndebourne Festival, 1951
Fritz Busch, conductor.
Classic Record Collector
How joyous it is to spend two evenings at Glyndebourne, in the days when the Sussex house attracted the best singers - and when the system established by Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert in the 1930s still operated at full strength. Busch himself is in charge for Cosi fan tutte, of course, and readers suffering a fit of deja vu after perusing the header will need an explanation. Yes, this is the same performance that came out in 2005 and was reviewed in CRC by Mortimer H. Frank (Autumn 2005, page 96) and John T. Hughes (Spring 2006, page 103). But it is not the same recording. Realizing that producer Richard Caniell was not aware of the existence of a better tape, we put him in touch with the Bruder-Busch-Archiv; and here is the vastly improved result. Even the BBA tape has gaps but the entire new production is better than the old (Guild GHCD 2303/4). The overture now comes from Busch's 1940 Stockholm performance rather than his 1935 HMV Glyndebourne recording. Heddle Nash still takes over from Lewis at the end of "Un' aura amorosa" and there are inserts from the 1950 highlights; but everything is conducted by Busch and the inserts total only 2'30" in Act 1 and 1 '31 " in Act 2.
The sound is now very listenable, despite clicks and swishes, not to mention snaps, crackles and pops, and this is now my favourite version of my favourite opera - although the Karajan with the same Don Alfonso and a comparably fine cast remains the best for sound plus performance, and Glyndebourne 1935 and 1950 stay in the frame. For the ideal melding of metal and warmth, Sena Jurinac is the Fiordiligi who has defined the role for our time. Her two arias, equally testing in different ways, do not find her wanting except perhaps in the very lowest register. While she went on to even greater things, the American mezzo Alice Howland did not: she died aged 84 in 1998 in New York with a relatively modest reputation as a Lieder singer, vocal coach and author of The Art Song (1960). She sings very well, combines superbly with Jurinac and handles her one aria with aplomb - the aria with wind band is cut.
Isa Quensel, who sang Despina for Busch in Stockholm, is fully in command of this gift of a soubrette role and even rattles off her recitatives like an Italian. The men could hardly be bettered. Richard Lewis, sometimes a little throaty, as always, is at his most fluently lyrical; and Busch has restored the strong Act 2 aria "Tradito, schernito” denied to Nash in 1935. Marko Rothmiiller can sound a little nasal and even metallic but I always enjoy his vocalism; and he runs the gamut from the rage of "Donne mie" to the tenderness of "Il coro vi dono". How wonderful to have him in a complete role. As for Bruscantini, the best Alfonso over a span of exactly 40 years, although this is only his second Mozart part and his debut role at Glyndebourne, he is already into his stride. He controls the action in masterly fashion and is vocally perfect: the trio "Soave il vento" with Jurinac and Howland is a highlight, as it should be. Some cuts remain - Busch had to consider his audience, many of whom came by train - but with typically high Glyndebourne standards of choral and orchestral performance, this is a set to treasure. Busch had the art of finding tempi which flowed without rushing or expanded without dragging. His sudden death two months later removed the one Mozart conductor who combined the warmth of Walter with the rhythmic acuity of Kleiber.