"Mozarts "Grabmusik" and "Bastien und Bastienne" by Classical Opera on the label Signum Classics. Heavenly!"Stretto, 03-9-2018
Continuing their complete Mozart opera recording cycle, Classical Opera’s latest release shines a light on two early opera works by Mozart.
Grabmusik was reported to be the product of a test set by the prince of Salzburg, who: “... not crediting that such masterly compositions were really those of a child, shut him up for a week, during which he was not permitted to see any one, and was left only with music paper, and the words of an oratorio ... During this short time he composed a very capital oratorio, which was most highly approved of upon being performed.” Performed for Holy Week the title can be translated as ‘Cantata on Christ’s Grave’ (literally ‘Grave Music’), and the anonymous text takes the form of a dialogue between a tormented soul, who is desperately lamenting the tragedy of Christ’s death, and an angel.
Bastien und Bastienne is the only one of Mozart’s operas to have been written for performance in a private house rather than a theatre. Commissioned at some point in mid-1768 by the renowned and controversial German physician Franz Anton Mesmer, it tells the tale of two young shepherds, Bastien and Bastienne, being reconciled in love the fortune teller and magician Collas after Bastien has brie y been lured away by the attractions of a noble lady from the city. This new recording uses Mozart’s original 1767 setting of the libretto by F. W. Weiskern & J. H. F. Müller, the provenance of which was only established in 1980s.
Classical Opera was founded in 1997 by conductor Ian Page to explore the works of Mozart and his contemporaries, and has emerged as one of the leading exponents in its eld. In 2017 it launched a new brand, The Mozartists, enabling it to broaden its ever-expanding concert work while continuing to present recordings and performances of complete operas under the name of Classical Opera. With its own acclaimed period-instrument orchestra, the company has attracted widespread critical and public recognition, not only for the high quality of its performances but also for its imaginative programming and its ability to discover and nurture outstanding young singers. In 2015 it launched MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year project following the chronological trajectory of Mozart’s life, works and in uences.
Classical Opera has performed regularly at many of London and the UK’s leading venues, including Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, Birmingham Town Hall and Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, and on tour in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, where it enjoyed a three-concert residency at the 2016 Eisenstadt Haydn Festival. It has mounted staged productions of many of Mozart’s operas, and in 2009 presented The Royal Opera’s new production of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes. It has also given the world première of the ‘original’ version of Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, and the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito, Telemann’s Orpheus and Jommelli’s Il Vologeso.
Classical Opera’s first two recordings – ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ (Sony BMG, 2007, re-released on Signum Classics, 2014) and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (Wigmore Hall Live, 2010) – were both selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice. In May 2016 the company released ‘Where’er You Walk’, with tenor Allan Clayton, which was shortlisted for the 2017 International Opera Awards, and this was followed in May 2017 by The Mozartists’ début recording ‘Per do!’, a programme of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven concert arias featuring soprano Sophie Bevan. This current recording is the seventh release in Classical Opera’s complete recording cycle of Mozart’s operas.
Under the direction of conductor Ian Page, The Mozartists (formerly Classical Opera) have established themselves among the most exciting period-instrument ensembles in Europe, attracting particular recognition for their fresh, dramatic and stylish performances, their imaginative and innovative programming, and their ability to discover and nurture outstanding young artists.
On stage and in concert, they have performed many of Mozart’s operas, and they have given the UK premières of operas by Gluck, Telemann, Jommelli and Hasse. They appear regularly in London at venues such as Wigmore Hall, Southbank Centre, Cadogan Hall and the Barbican Centre, and they presented Mozart’s La finta semplice and Il re pastore and Arne’s Artaxerxes at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. They have also performed at many of the UK’s leading festivals and in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece and the Czech Republic.
In 2015 the company launched MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year project following the chronological trajectory of Mozart’s life, works and influences. Each year MOZART 250 explores the music being composed and performed by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously, and this major initiative has already incorporated music by over forty composers.
The Mozartists’ extensive discography has attracted widespread acclaim. In 2012 they embarked on a major new recording cycle of the complete Mozart operas on Signum Classics, and the first seven releases in the series have all received outstanding reviews. ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ (Signum Classics) and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (Wigmore Hall Live) were both selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critics’ Choice, and their solo recital discs with tenor Allan Clayton (‘Where’er You Walk’) and soprano Sophie Bevan (‘Perfido!’) were both shortlisted for the International Opera Awards. At the Greater London Enterprise Awards, The Mozartists were named ‘Most Innovative Classical Music Ensemble’ in 2021 and ‘Best Nationwide Classical Music Ensemble’ in 2022.
Ian Page (conductor) is the founder, conductor and artistic director of Classical Opera, and is emerging as one of the leading British conductors of his generation. He began his musical education as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, and studied English Literature at the University of York before completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the start of his career he worked on the music staff at Scottish Opera, Opera Factory, Glyndebourne and the Drottningholm Slottsteater in Sweden, working with such conductors as Sir Alexander Gibson, Nicholas McGegan, Mark Wigglesworth, Ivor Bolton and Sir Charles Mackerras.
With Classical Opera he has conducted most of Mozart’s early operas, including the world première of the ‘original’ version of Mitridate, re di Ponto and a new completion of Zaide, as well as Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and La clemenza di Tito. He has also conducted the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito, Telemann’s Orpheus and Jommelli’s Il Vologeso, as well as the first new staging for 250 years of Johann Christian Bach’s Adriano in Siria. In 2009 he made his Royal Opera House début conducting Arne’s Artaxerxes at the Linbury Studio Theatre, and his studio recording of the work was released in 2011 on Linn Records.
He devised and conducted Classical Opera’s recordings of ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ (Signum Classics) and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (Wigmore Hall Live), both of which were selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice, and he recently embarked on an acclaimed new complete cycle of Mozart opera recordings with Classical Opera. He has also created and devised MOZART 250, Classical Opera’s ambitious 27-year journey through Mozart’s music and influences, which was launched in London in 2015.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose actual name is Joannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a composer, pianist, violinist and conductor from the classical period, born in Salzburg. Mozart was a child prodigy. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Along with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart is considered to be one of the most influential composers of all of music's history. Within the classical tradition, he was able to develop new musical concepts which left an everlasting impression on all the composers that came after him. Together with Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven he is part of the First Viennese School. At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. From 1763 he traveled with his family through all of Europe for three years and from 1769 he traveled to Italy and France with his father Leopold after which he took residence in Paris. On July 3rd, 1778, his mother passed away and after a short stay in Munich with the Weber family, his father urged him to return to Salzburg, where he was once again hired by the Bishop. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death.
Mozarts "Grabmusik" and "Bastien und Bastienne" by Classical Opera on the label Signum Classics. Heavenly!