Notes and Editorial Reviews
Margaret Price as Barbarina, Kiri Te Kanawa as one of the ragazze? Yes, 20 years have passed since the Figaro was issued, and these sopranos have ascended quite a few rungs in the operatic hierarchy, now both Countesses of long-standing (see below). Their performances here are indicative of the careful and astute casting in all these near-historic readings. They are in every sense hors concours, so I don't propose to make comparisons: in any case my views on the many versions of both operas have been well aired of late in these pages. Whatever other recommendations one may make, these austere, yet always very human readings are well worth considering for their singular and, in the end, highly persuasive approach to the piece in hand.
At first, it has to be admitted, Klemperer's speeds seem tediously and uncommonly slow but as he builds each aria and ensemble with an unerring sense of its formal shape and allows every detail, every rhythmic nuance to be heard and 'felt', adverse criticism is gradually but decisively disarmed: this honest, unaffected style becomes its own justification, especially when the performances sound so lived-in with, in Figaro, the household made up of clearly defined individuals with positive personalities.
The Count and Countess of Bacquier and Söderström exude at once an air of seigneurial poise and mercurial feelings. Allowed space to develop their characterizations, we hear them both shape their recitatives and arias with a skill for detail that few of their successors have achieved, while both sing Mozart with a satisfying combination of warmth and wit. Below stairs, things are just as happily arranged. With the added time offered him by his conductor, Evans's Figaro is here at its most pointed and varied, every nuance finely inflected. Grist hadn't the roundness of tone of the best Susannas but she is constantly alive to the changes in the plot and responds accordingly as in Susanna's seeming capitulation to the Count's advances at the start of Act 3. Her "Deh vieni" is exquisitely poised.
Berganza is another to benefit from KIemperer's tempos allowing her to sing her arias, especially "Non so piü", with a rewarding breadth of phrase, and who else has sung them with such rounded, soft-grained voice? We have a suitable memorial to Michael Langdon's art in his subtle, chuckling Bartolo, and Klemperer's speed for his aria allows him to encompass its coloratura with ease. Hollweg offers a straight, unguyed Basilio, Burmeister a vivid Marcellina, Price a delicious Barbarina (though her Italian vowels were to improve). Basilio gets his aria; Marcellina is denied hers. The recitative is accompanied, in outdated fashion, with a few bare chords.
-- Gramophone [9/1991]
Works on This Recording
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Margaret Price (Soprano),
Clifford Grant (Bass),
Willi Brokmeier (Tenor),
Werner Hollweg (Tenor),
Michael Langdon (Bass),
Annelies Burmeister (Mezzo Soprano),
Gabriel Bacquier (Baritone),
Teresa Berganza (Mezzo Soprano),
Elisabeth Söderström (Soprano),
Reri Grist (Soprano),
Sir Geraint Evans (Baritone),
Teresa Cahill (Soprano),
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano)
John Alldis Choir,
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1970
Venue: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London
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