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Gluck: La clemenza di Tito [Box set]

L'arte del mondo , Christoph Willibald Gluck , Werner Ehrhardt Audio CD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Conductor: Werner Ehrhardt
  • Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • Audio CD (19 May 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Sony Music Classical
  • ASIN: B00H5DNAS4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,449 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Sinfonia: I. Allegro
2. Sinfonia: II. Largo
3. Sinfonia: III. Allegro molto
4. Recitativo Scena 1
5. Recitativo Scena 2
See all 15 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Recitativo Scena 7
2. Amo te solo (Aria)
3. Recitativo Scena 8
4. Recitativo Scena 9
5. Ah! Se fosse intorno al trono (Aria)
See all 10 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Recitativo Scena 1
2. Recitativo Scena 2
3. Recitativo Scena 3
4. Recitativo Scena 4
5. Sia lontano ogni cimento (Aria)
See all 23 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Recitativo Scena 1
2. Tardi s'avvede (Aria)
3. Recitativo Scena 2
4. Recitativo Scena 3
5. Pietà, signor, per lui (Aria)
See all 20 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Product Description

Artists
  • L'arte del mondo
  • Werner Ehrhardt, musical director

  • Soloists:
  • Rainer Trost (Tito Vespasiano)
  • Laura Aikin (Vitellia)
  • Raffaella Milanesi (Sesto)
  • Arantza Ezenarro (Servilia)
  • Valer Sabadus (Annio)
  • Flavio Ferri-Benedetti (Publio)

  • L'arte del mondo presents the world premiere recording of: La Clemenza di Tito by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787). The world premiere recording of a masterpiece of the 'opera seria', perfectly timed for the 300th birthday of Gluck (July 2nd).


    The opera is starring countertenor Valer Sabadus - one of opera's most exciting newcomers - now exclusively signed to Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, a division of Sony Classical. Christoph Willibald Gluck, widely known for fundamentally reforming the 'opera seria' wrote some of the greatest and exemplary masterpieces of this great genre before he started his famous reform of the opera. This makes this work a fascinating and enlightening piece in the puzzle for the evolution of opera and the eminent character Gluck. Gluck's setting of La Clemenza was first performed in Naples in 1752, ten years before his first reform opera.

    ‘La Clemenza di Tito’ is an exemplary 'opera seria' and a masterpiece of this genre, based on a libretto by the famous Pietro Metastasio. Metastasio’s libretti have been set to music more than any other writer, ever! For example, the libretto of ‘La Clemenza di Tito’ has been set to music 40 times. This world premiere recording by the ensemble l’arte del mondo imposingly shows the exceptional skills of one of the most influential opera composers of all time and reveals a rather unknown side of this outstanding visionary.


    About L'arte del mondo

    The orchestra l’arte del mondo is rooted in the Early Music tradition, but also plays on modern instruments with the same passion, performing repertoire that goes up to the Romantic period. Since it was founded, the ensemble has been invited to appear at many major festivals and concert series such as the Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiele, the Bonn Beethoven Festival, the Schwetzingen Festival and the Sanssouci Music Festival in Potsdam. l’arte del mondo has also played at such illustrious venues as Konzerthaus Berlin, the Cité de la musique in Paris, the Düsseldorf Tonhalle, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and Munich's Herkulessaal.


    Synopsis

    Rome, 79 A.D - The new emperor Titus has ascended the throne. He has been involved with the Judean princess Berenike, but ends the relationship for reasons of state, and against his personal inclination. Vitellia, the daughter of an overthrown former emperor, sees herself as the rightful bride of the new emperor Titus and feels discriminated against in favour of Berenike, and she starts to instigate a rebellion against Titus with one of the new ruler's friends, Sextus, her devoted admirer. Sextus’s sister Servilia in turn loves a certain Annius, who loves her in return: an altogether favourable state of affairs, were it not for the fact that Titus has now decided to woo Servilia in Berenike's place. Sextus is startled by the news, but Annius is willing to abandon his love out of loyalty to Titus. But Servilia makes no move to change her fiancé so quickly, and affirms her loyalty to Annius. She then confesses to Titus that she is in love with Annius. Impressed by this step, the emperor withdraws his proposal of marriage and praises Servilia's honesty.

    Later Vitellia learns that she has been selected as the new empress. Vitellia is surprised and delighted by the news, but unfortunately Sextus has already stabbed the emperor to death with his own hands. Later on it turns out that Titus is still alive, and that Sextus apparently killed someone who looked like the emperor. Sextus and Annius swap cloaks in order to cover up Sextus’s guilt. Titus then learns of the uprising. Because Annius is wearing a cloak with the emblem of the conspirators on it the others take him for the ringleader. But a little while later it becomes clear to the prefect Publius that it's Sextus who was behind the plot.

    Titus is reluctant to sign the death warrant and interrogates Sextus himself. But in order to protect the true ringleader, Vitellia, Sextus says nothing in his own defence, so that he must now prepare to die. Titus is at odds with his fate as ruler, and decides, contrary to all political wisdom, to display clemency. Meanwhile Vitellia overcomes her misgivings and decides to reveal herself to Titus. The emperor is about to publicly pardon Sextus when Vitellia confesses her crimes. To everyone's amazement, the surprised Titus forgives all the conspirators. He admits that he can no longer marry Vitellia under the circumstances, but decides that she shall wed Sextus instead. As nothing more stands in the way of Sevilia and Annius getting married, a double wedding ceremony is announced. But the good-hearted Emperor Titus declares that he intends to remain single.


    Customer Reviews

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    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Homage to royalty 26 Jun 2014
    Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
    Metastasio's 'La clemenza di Tito' was one of the most popular opera libretti of the 18th century, no doubt because in the figure of the compassionate Roman emperor Titus one could pay a large compliment to the royal patrons of opera. Gluck's setting was made in 1752 for Naples and intended for the name-day of the king Carlo III. There are few foretastes of what Mozart made of this text nearly 40 years later, but plenty of premonitions of Gluck's own later reformed style, especially in the dramatic orchestrally accompanied recitatives, the one for Sesto that opens Act 2 and the one for Tito in Act 3, where the characters enlarge on the dreadful dilemmas, the tests of friendship, in which they are embroiled. There are plenty of well varied and attractive arias, occasionally departing from the ubiquitous and leisurely 3-part da capo form for something more succinct.

    This sort of music must be very taxing for the singers, but here they are mostly well up to the task. Laura Aikin is an effective Vitellia, the scheming heroine, and Raffaella Milanesi makes considerable appeal as her put-upon lover, Sesto, a role written for the celebrated castrato Caffarelli. It is Sesto who sings the best known number in the whole work, the Act 2 aria, 'Se mai senti spirarti sul volto,' which Gluck used again for one of the finest, most archetypal moments in his mature operas, 'O malheureuse Iphigenie,' Iphigenia's despairing lament at the extinction of her family and all her hopes in 'Iphigenie en Tauride' of 1779. It is truly remarkable that the music already exists in its developed form in the context of the unreformed opera seria 'La clemenza di Tito' 27 years before. (The middle section was made into the chorus that follows in the later work).
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    0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
    Not the best of operas by Gluck and bought because of the reasonable price. Shocking to spot the internal plagiarism, but he was not, of course, unique in this respect. No complaints for the money spent.
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    Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
    0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Music, Splendiferous Singing 24 July 2014
    By Cave ne aures - Published on Amazon.com
    Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
    Rainer Trost - Tito Vespasiano (Tenor, premiered by Gaetano Ottani)
    Laura Aikin - Vitellia (Soprano, premiered by Caterina Visconti)
    Raffaella Milanesi - Sesto (Soprano, premiered by Gaetano Majorano, detto "Caffarelli")
    Arantza Ezenarro - Servilia (Soprano)
    Valer Sabadus - Annio (Counter Tenor, Mezzo)
    Flavio Ferri-Benedetti - Publio (Counter Tenor, Soprano)

    L'Arte del mondo - Werner Ehrhardt, dir.

    Libretto: Metastasio. Premiere: 4 November 1752, Naples, Teatro di San Carlo

    I am always a bit nervous when buying a "live" recording. The musicians' and singers' faux pas, which one would barely notice when listening to an inspired performance in an opera house get blown out of proportion and become irritants that make on want to put the CD's on a shelf high enough so as to be unreachable without a ladder. In the case of this recording, however, I need not have worried, for it is splendid throughout in ever conceivable way. This is the best "live" recording that I have heard in many a year.

    Other than said nervousness, I was looking forward to finally listen to Gluck's version of "La Clemenza" and compare it to Mozart's version of " La clemenza di Tito, written in 1791, written in only 18 days and in such haste that the secco recitatives were supplied by another composer, probably Franz Xaver Süssmayr (of later Mozart Requiem fame) according to Mozart's earliest biographer Niemetschek. It premiered on September 6th for the Emperor's coronation festivities in Prague. Sadly, Mozart fell ill while in Prague and thus began the slide toward his death on December 5th. Whether this was due to the exertion of his compositional marathon or because he heard reports that the crowned Emperor's wife Maria Luisa of Spain dismissed it as "una porcheria tedesca" (literally in Italian "German swinishness," but most idiomatically translated "A German pig sty")* has not come down to us in writing or legend.

    I hate to speak ill of the dead, especially Mozart, but the reason I wanted to hear Gluck's version was due to the fact that I consider Mozart's "La Clemenza" his worst opera; a thoroughly boring hack-job with nary an interesting note or harmonic progression with the sole exception of the Act II rondo aria "Non più di fiori" with the unforgettable basset horn obbligato. Mozart's "La Clemenza" is insufferably boring, both due to the Metastasian libretto mutilated by Calzabigi which is full of platitudes, as well as due to music that, for Mozart, is singularly uninspired and trite. I am happy to report that Gluck's version of this opera is far more entertaining and deserving of performances today than Mozart's.

    And now, about this recording: The singing is in tune (always important!) with excellent vocal elegance, virtuosity and projection. Special mention must go to Raffaella Milanesi (whose versatile, sfumato-like dark soprano is quickly becoming a favorite of mine) and Laura Aikin, though purely on the basis of having the best and most difficult arias, written by Gluck for two of the greatest singers of his day, not because they sound better than most other members of the cast. The orchestral playing is generally very good and, thanks to Werner Ehrhardt's good taste, provides a lively and flexible partnership in sound with the singers.

    La Clemenza di Tito is one of those operas where the opera's namesake only has a secondary role in spite of receiving top billing, so listening to Rainer Trost's resonant tenor in Tito's three arias makes one want to hear more. Counter tenor Flavio Ferri-Benedetti is the weakest link in the chain of splendid singers. One of the most Mozartesque arias in the opera, Publio's lovely "Sia lontano ogni cimento" containing passages that are rather similar to passages in the Queen of the Night's famous aria "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen," comes out sounding a bit shrill and forced. Arantza Ezenarro's lyric soprano voice is perfect for Servilia's arias, which, although not as technically demanding as Vitellia's and Sesto's, still require quite a bit of technique combined with sustained legatos from the singer. Annio's two arias both come in Act I, which is a pity, since listening to his low counter tenor is a pleasure.

    The first masterpiece aria we encounter is Sesto's "Opprimete i contumacy," written for the castrato Caffarelli, who premiered the role. The orchestra starts out with tutti which has an effect that at the time could only have been experienced by Austrian troops facing the charge from Frederick the Great's Prussian Bayreuth Dragoons at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg. The aria, all glorious 8 minutes and 15 seconds of it, then proceeds to alternate between the most tender and delicate passages in Empfindsamer Stil alternating with Sturm und Drang vocal fireworks across 2 octaves and a bit more. Caffarelli must have lived up to the written accounts we have of his fabulous voice; Raffaella Milanesi fully lives up to the demands of Gluck's bravura composing, which is no mean feat indeed.

    The second masterpiece aria is the very last one in Act I, "Quando sara il di." It clocks in at a staggering 11:38" yet it doesn't seem a second too long. It has a beautiful oboe obbligato and Laura Aikin impeccably demonstrates what Caterina Visconti was capable of as the original Vitellia.

    Wise opera composers through the ages have known how to pace their works so the music (like a proper wine tasting) went from "brilliant" in Act I to "genius" in Act II before reaching "divine" in Act III. Thus trying to get into all the finer points of Acts II and III would test the patience of the reader. However, among the many splendid arias in Act II we find the famous aria written for Sesto: "Se mai senti spirarti sul volto." It was Gluck's first Europe-wide hit and provoked as admiration as debate for its unusual and nowhere-in-the-rule-book treatment of dissonances. In order to finally resolve the debate pro et contra, operatic cognoscenti took the score to the highly respected Neapolitan composer and teacher Francesco Durante, asking him to pass judgment on these novel "diabolic in musica." While declining to say whether Gluck's aria was in accordance with the rules of composition, he declared that he and all his colleagues "should have been proud to have conceived and written such a passage." Gluck himself thought well enough of the piece to rework it in his Iphigénie en Tauride a quarter of a century later. Yet whereas in Iphigénie this aria comes across as a great aria, its setting in this early work makes its genius all that more breathtaking. No wonder Europe was in an uproar over this music! La Milanesi makes the listener melt into a small puddle on the floor with her singing of this beautiful aria.

    In this opera, Gluck proceeds from composing in the north German style (viz., e.g., C.P.E. Bach and Benda) to an increasingly sophisticated style that combines the best of the elegant style of the Neapolitan school with the best dramatical aspects of Handel (Gluck was in London 1745-46 and undoubtedly met the famous doyen of English music) and the North Italian/Roman school (which he would have picked up on in his collaboration with violin virtuoso Pietro Locatelli from 1750 ff. "La Clemenza" is not through-composed as "Orfeo ed Euridice" ten years hence would be; there are plenty of secco recitatives in Gluck's composing during this period - I might add very well paced and sung dramatically in this recording, as they should be - but much of what would characterize his "reform operas" is already in place. Many arias have simple, though never naïve or boring, quality to them, eschewing passage work in favor of the general principle "one note = one syllable." Yet at this point, Gluck was also not so far removed in time from baroque sensibilities that he didn't throw in bravura arias that Handel or Hasse would have been proud of. Still, unlike Hasse, Gluck is never backward-looking, even in bravura arias (by virtue of rapid changes of moods and sentiments that are more complex than the traditional contrasting A-B-A baroque aria), but rather a John the Baptist to Mozart's Jesus.

    The only major peeve I have with this CD set is the booklet. Who's the genius at Deutsche Harmonia Mundi that decided to provide a track listing without the incipits of the arias and recitatives and then proceeded to omit track numbers in the libretto (not to mention the biographies of all the singers)? Most irritating!

    The sound quality of the recording is quite good. It is full and resonant, avoiding the dryness trap that so many live recordings fall into. Unfortunately it does not quite escape from that other pitfall of live recordings: balancing. The singers tend to dominate the orchestra and the brass (wonderfully au naturale yet quite in tune!) dominates the woodwinds and strings. This is only a minor issue, one which I doubt most listeners will pick up on like I do, having listened to so many recordings. Yes, one can hear that it is a live performance through the occasional imprecisions in synchronization between the orchestra and singers and the odd note being off by 1/100th of a tone, but again, this won't be noticeable to most listeners since I didn't really notice anything during the first run-through of the recording because I was sitting in rapt bliss listening to the music. I only noticed when applying a very critical ear to subsequent listenings.

    This is a world premiere recording you won't regret buying, especially since it will definitely become a collector's item in no time, selling for much more than today. So don't wait too long making up your mind.

    * This remark is doubly ironic in that etymologists have speculated that the family name "Mozart," rather unusual in German, was derived from a slang word for "stable boy," though closer in meaning to "muck raker," which the family euphemized to "Mozart" at some point in time when they rose above the muck around their boots.
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