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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Mozart drama, 11 May 2013
This review is from: Mozart : Idomeneo (Audio CD)
Idomeneo is the best of the early Mozart operas, in my opinion. It's full of atmosphere and the dramatic line is well constructed. This recording exploits that drama with a bright pace and a wonderful cast.

Werner Hollweg recorded very little, and I've no idea why. He possessed a honey-toned, subtle voice which he uses with exquisite taste (I was mindful of Nicola Monti whilst listening to him). Rachel Yakar is a soprano I had not heard before; she sings the role of Ilia with superb control and agility. Felicity Palmer makes her presence felt throughout as Elettra, singing with tremendous power, and Trudeliese Schmidt is in fine voice as Idamante.

Thus far I have not come across a Harnoncourt Mozart recording I have disliked. I recommend this one if only for the vivid storm sequence - here is theatre in abundance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Has its virtues but is hardly a triumph, 30 May 2014
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mozart : Idomeneo (Audio CD)
I don't know whether I am being especially picky or hard to please, but I find all the recordings of "Idomeneo" that I own or I have sampled to be problematic to some degree. Its purity of style, the demands of its coloratura, the manner in which it exposes voices - true of Mozart in general - make it a work very difficult to bring off and so far I find flaws in virtually every attempt.

The most successful to date is Gardiner's period performance with the best Idomeneo of all, Anthony Rolfe Johnson. He is accompanied by an impressive roster of co-singers and Gardiner mostly avoids the stiffness which sometimes afflicts his conducting, bringing out the drama beneath the almost Baroque formality of the work. However, the performance as a whole lacks somewhat in personality.

The eponymous role understandably attracts top tenors: Pavarotti somewhat unwisely tackled it later in his career when his tenor had lost the fluidity and sappiness of youth the part requires. Domingo, too, recorded it relatively late in a heavyweight version which cuts a lot of the more demanding ornamentation; his tone proved unsuitable and his voice was really too heavy; his Verdian amplitude sounds out of place. Nor am I very keen on the supporting cast, many of whom do not sound "Mozartian" in an unashamedly very modern, Romantic-sounding, modern-instrument production. Richard Lewis may be heard in a couple of recordings stemming from the Glyndebourne productions but he is not exactly heroic and has some audible difficulties - and that is the crux of the problem: finding a tenor with sufficient flexibility who still has the requisite weight of tone. The part was written for Anton Raaff who was already 64 when he sang it and by all accounts did so beautifully even though he found the role very challenging - and so has every tenor since. Fans of Bostridge may want his version; I don't - but then, I don't want to listen to anything he sings; sorry.

This recording from Harnoncourt seems strangely low-key for a conductor usually so energised. Werner Hollweg does not help: he is oddly restrained and even rather querulous and weedy-sounding, although he just about negotiates the florid divisions successfully. None of the other principal female singers is as good as the competition: Trudeliese Schmidt sounds wan, plaintive and vaguely under the note; Rachel Yakar is OK but nowhere near as pure and silvery as others Ilias like Sylvia McNair; the wonderful Felicity Palmer is miscast as Elettra - her voice is too blowsy and unwieldy and she is not on form.

The period orchestra plays very well but Gardiner's is better, as is his cast and even though I am by no means a staunch Gardiner fan, that is where my recommendation lies, over this slightly disappointing recording.
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Mozart : Idomeneo
Mozart : Idomeneo by Harnoncpurt (Audio CD - 2009)
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