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Mozart: Concert Arias / Villazon, Pappano, London Symphony Orchestra


Release Date: 01/21/2014 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001986002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MOZART Si mostra la sorte, K 209. Dove mai trovar quel ciglio?, K 420 (424a). Per pietà, non ricercate, K 420. Va’, dal furor portata, K 21 (19c). Misero! O sogno o son desto? Aura che intorno spiri, K 431 (425b). Con ossequio, con rispetto, K 210. Or che il dover, Tali e cotanti sono, Read more K 36 (33i). Clarice cara mia sposa, K 256. Se al lavvro mio non credi, K 295. Müsst ich auch durch tausend Drachen, K 435 (416b) Rolando Villazón (ten); Antonio Pappano, cond; London SO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4791054 (63:09)


Cynics may say that it is his recent vocal crisis that prodded Rolando Villazón into this intense and sudden interest in Mozart. A thrilling bel canto specialist, his much hyped Heir-to-Domingo status (a pretty irresponsible critical judgment, given his youth and sudden exposure) gave us a pretty credible dramatic tenor for a few years before a gasket blew. I personally think that Villazón’s tenor is mostly back to normal, at least in the studio. There has always been that worrying tightness to his vocal production, as if emulating Domingo going to bust a vein, but the payoff is that burnished yet pinging tone deployed with real flair and excitement. Although their timbres are similar, I would argue that in contrast to Domingo’s casual brilliance, Villazón brings an excitable, charged expression to everything he approaches. While that has made for an unforgettable Nemorino or Hoffmann, many would argue it is too much for the delicate, precise world of Mozart, although not Deutsche Grammophon. In the middle of a large project to record Mozart’s last seven operas for the label, Villazón has now found time to gather up an album of lesser known tenor arias.


This is a scholarly release for his fans, with virtually every concert item for tenor included unless you include alternate versions of the same aria, such as K 295, Se al labbro mio non credi , which Mozart later reworked and inserted for Johan Adolf Hasse’s opera Artaserse . All the works could be considered rare and take us from the nine-year-old prodigy’s Va, dal furor portata to the mature composer’s concert work Müsst ich auch durch tausend Drachen from 1783.


Much of this music was written to showcase a particular singer’s skills, and Villazón rises to every showy challenge set by the adolescent composer. His trills are there, if a little forced, and his large, vibrant sound negotiates those florid outpourings successfully. He is less able, though, to calm down and sing through the longer phrases. This is eager, alert singing, at pains to savor the text, which for such trite musings on thwarted love as Si mostra la sorte or Per pietà, non ricercale may seem over diligent. When I so often gripe about modern singing’s poor diction and blandness, it seems churlish to criticize Villazón for overworking the text, but he could take the energy down a notch. His approach works very well for the longer arias, with their formal changes of mood and color. Misero! O sogno o son deslo is especially successful, with Villazón relaxing into the exquisite wind writing in this mournful plea for the breeze to contact his lover.


With Con ossequio, con rispetto written for a comic opera by Niccolò Piccinni, Villazón shows a neat comic side, not afraid to sound neurotic and bitter as the scheming Captain Faccenda. I assume he will take the small role of Don Basilio in the forthcoming Le nozze di Figaro , as this dry run proves he can be funny and wheedling. For the same opera, Mozart composed a very proto-Rossinian patter duet Clarice cara mia sposa , where the same character has to be placated by the rational Don Timoteo. (Antonio Pappano contributes a really not embarrassing buffo-baritone turn from the podium!)


The best is saved till last, in fairly clear if Latin-tinged German, with Müsst ich auch durch tausend Drachen, the only non-Italian aria here. It is a rollicking piece of silliness, very similar in content to Die Entführung aus dem Serail’ s “Frisch zum Kampfe” and written just before that, and it responds the best to the muscular treatment here. The singing throughout the album is unrelentingly thrilling and urgent, with every fiber of Villazón’s being latched on to Mozart’s every word. It is both an asset and a criticism; the album in one go is a little wearing to be honest, especially in the less substantial numbers, which can wilt under such pressure. It is commendable that he grabs each piece with such vigor, but now and then he should just pull back a little and allow the music to soar by itself. Dull he ain’t, though.


Pappano, also a left-field, turbo-charged choice for Mozart, actually paces each item extremely well, with the LSO playing with real grace and drive. DG’s sound is rich and full, if predictably biased towards Villazón. Presentation is swish but overly concerned with the star tenor rather than Mozart, which is annoying given that there is so little on the insertion arias’ context, other than a brief synopsis of the aria at the top of each text. Competition basically only includes the Arias volume of that exacting Philips Mozart Edition , and while that will never be superseded, this is individually a rather more exciting angle on these slight, youthful works. Naturally the disc this most reminds me of is that unexpectedly fine Mozart album that Plácido Domingo recorded for the bicentenary in 1991. No one would ever consider Domingo or Villazón to be an especially refined Mozart interpreter, but I rather like the hedonist spark they bring to the clean and tidy world of “authentic” Mozart singing, whatever that may be. For a fan disc, it is a welcome departure from the usual Italian hits; for the discerning Mozartian, it is a shot of adrenalin.


FANFARE: Barnaby Rayfield
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Works on This Recording

1. Va dal furor portata, K 21 (19c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1765; London, England 
2. Si mostra la sorte, K 209 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
3. Se al labbro mio non credi, K 295 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778; Mannheim, Germany 
4. Per pietà, bel idol mio, K 78 (73b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: circa 1766; Italy 
5. Or che il dover...Tali e cotanti sono, K 36 (33i) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1766; Netherlands (Holland 
6. Musst'ich auch durch tausend Drachen, K 435 (416b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
7. Misero! o sogno...Aura che intorni spiri, K 431 (425b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1783; Vienna, Austria 
8. Con ossequio, con rispetto, K 210 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
9. Clarice cara, K 256 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Rolando Villazón (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776; Salzburg, Austria 

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