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Mozart: Thamos, König In Ägypten / Gardiner, Miles

Release Date: 01/01/2004 
Label:  Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog #: 437556   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Alastair Miles
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque SoloistsMonteverdi Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

John Eliot Gardiner directs all this music in vivid fashion, with precise articulation, plenty of electricity in the rhythms, powerful accents and a wide dynamic range.

Mozart's choruses and entr'actes for the Gebler play, Thamos, Konig in Aegypten, his sole incidental dramatic music, are much less well known than they deserve to be. He composed them in the late 1770s, probably in two groups—the entr'actes and the finale in 1776, when the play was given in Salzburg, and the choruses some three years later. The four entr'actes, all in different (though quite closely related) keys, would unfortunately not quite make a good concert item, and in any case the music is very specific in its expression in a way that doesn't
Read more encourage adaptation to concert use— it would, I imagine, work wonderfully alongside the dramatic tensions of the play. The first is a C minor piece, fiery and full of powerful gestures; the second, an Andante in E flat, represents the characters of the noble King Thamos and the treacherous Pheron (the play is set in Egypt, at the Heliopolis shrine to the sun, but there any resemblance to Die Zauberflote ends); then comes one in a stormy G minor leading to a more docile B flat, originally (though happily not here) to be heard against spoken words; and lastly there is a passionate movement in D minor (ending in the major). There are three choruses, the first two of which exist in alternative versions, of which Gardiner slightly oddly includes the earlier in the main text and the later, rather more richly worked, versions in the appendix (Mozart left the second of these unfinished which suggests that it might have been better to regard the later versions as the definitive ones). The third incorporates a fine bass solo in the later version (decisively sung here by Alastair Miles) but in the earlier there is only an orchestral piece, more effective than musically interesting.

John Eliot Gardiner directs all this music in vivid fashion, with precise articulation, plenty of electricity in the rhythms, powerful accents and a wide dynamic range. Mozart wrote prominent wind parts and Gardiner makes sure they ring effectively through the textures. His tempos are fast: the D minor entr'acte has you on the edge of your seat, but possibly the E flat is too quick to make much of its expressive character—I was sorry in particular that the oboist had so little time to shape his music, intended to represent Thamos. The choral singing is of course first-rate and the tone of ritual and grandeur in the big choruses is finely caught.'

Stanley Sadie, Gramophone 2/1994

I always used to think that the Harnoncourt recording of this incidental music was uniquely perfect, but this new recording is equally marvellous. Harnoncourt used modern instruments with significant alterations (ie gut strings) while Gardiner’s is a period orchestra. But what makes this new record invaluable is that it contains two choruses which I had never heard before and which, I believe, are first recordings: the original versions of Nos. 1 and 6.

The booklet writer has made a total hash of the versions of the work, which he thinks are only two, 1776 and c.1779-80. Of the performances of Thamos at Pressburg (Bratislava) and Esterháza in 1773 he says ‘it was evidently performed with music – but the music was not by Mozart’. In fact on 13 December 1773, two days after the first performance in Pressburg, the play’s author, Tobias Philipp, Freiherr von Gebler, wrote from Vienna to a writer and colleague in Berlin: ‘I enclose the music for Thamos [...] as set not long ago by a certain Sigr. Mozzart [sic]. It is his own original score, and the first chorus very fine.’

This CD contains the whole music of the 1776 version (two numbers of which originated in 1773), including the first recordings of the two choruses, plus three revised numbers for the 1779-80 version – all for Salzburg. The role of the high priest is magnificently sung by Alastair Miles, and Gardiner neatly avoids some of the exaggerated accents of the previous Harnoncourt recording.

A triumph for all concerned and if you don’t know this part-sinister, part-glorious music, hasten to purchase this CD – it will change your life.
Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5)

-- HC Robbins Landon, BBC Music Magazine

Mozart spent a good seven years, on and off, working on his incidental music to Gebler’s play Thamos, King of Egypt. No one much cared about it then–the play, that is–and we care about it even less now. However, Mozart wrote three choruses, four orchestral interludes, and some brief concluding music for various productions. Originally there were only two choruses, but for a later revival Mozart added a third and doubled the length of the second, Gottheit, über alle mächtig! These three choruses were then later arranged with sacred texts as “Three Hymns”.

All of this music, in both original and revised versions, is included here. It remains some of Mozart’s lesser known mature work, but not the least of the achievements of the period-performance movement has been the revival of important neglected pieces by major baroque and classical composers. Harnoncourt recorded Thamos, and so has John Eliot Gardiner. The music is wonderful, from the fiery first interlude to the very full and highly developed choruses. Gardiner and his forces play and sing very well, and they are vividly recorded. This is a great disc to fill out your Mozart collection.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [1/2014]
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Works on This Recording

Thamos, King of Egypt, K 345 (336a) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Alastair Miles (Bass)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists,  Monteverdi Choir
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776-1779; Salzburg, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/1991 
Venue:  All Saints' Church, Tooting, London 
Length: 54 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Language: German 

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