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On CD: Glyndebourne "Idomeneo"

Mozart: Idomeneo. Gundula Janowitz, Luciano Pavarotti, Neilson Taylor, Enriqueta Tarrés, Richard Lewis, David Hughes, Dennis Wicks; Glyndebourne Chorus and London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Pritchard. Glyndebourne [2 CDs].

by Mark J. Estren

"Idomeneo," a recent offering from Glyndebourne's series of CD releases from its archives.

Along with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and London Philharmonic, some opera companies are now producing their own CDs – making available some unusually interesting archival performances. The Glyndebourne Festival’s handsomely packaged sets, bound in book form – with the CDs in the front and back covers and including full libretti – range from the familiar ("Fidelio") to the unusual (Prokofiev’s "Betrothal in a Monastery").

Glyndebourne’s new release of its 1964 "Idomeneo" falls somewhere in the middle. Although well known now, "Idomeneo" had its British premiere – at Glyndebourne – only in 1951, in an edition still being used by the company in 1964. Assembled under postwar exigencies by Viennese composer Hans Gal, it is by modern standards inadequate, cutting several scenes, omitting both arias for the counselor Arbace, and leaving out the ballet music.
(read more after the jump)

But John Pritchard was a noted Mozart conductor, and he leads this performance – from the harpsichord – with spirit and a good sense of style. And the recording offers the opportunity to hear soprano Gundula Janowitz, at age 27, as Ilia, and tenor Luciano Pavarotti, age 29, singing Idamante in his only Glyndebourne appearance. Janowitz handles her role with great spirit, giving Troy’s exiled princess character and passion – but within the strictures of opera seria. Pavarotti overplays Idamante somewhat, seeming a trifle uncomfortable with Mozart’s style and with the noble and moderate tone of the prince’s love for Ilia; but his voice rings clearly and cleanly, with a strong and attractive upper register. Richard Lewis (Idomeneo) and Enriqueta Tarrés (Elettra) are both best in their more intense arias. This is unlikely to be anyone’s first-choice Idomeneo, but it has enough interesting elements to be more than a mere historical curiosity.

--Mark J. Estren

By Anne Midgette  |  May 19, 2010; 6:09 AM ET
Categories:  CD reviews  
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Thank you for also reviewing historical recordings.

Talking about historical recordings, I recently listened to a magnificent perfromance os Shostakovich's 8th symphony by the New York Philharmonic (Philharmonic-Symphony of you prefer) under Artur Rodzinski. This was recorded live in 1944, so the sound is obviously restricted, yet the intensity of Rodzinski's reading does come accross.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | May 20, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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