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This was the first complete Mozart opera I ever bought and it was through this version that I learned to love it; it remains my favourite Mozart opera by virtue of the sheer beauty of the score and the subtle wit which pervades its ostensibly sexist libretto. Böhm's earlier studio recording in excellent stereo is commendable, especially for Lisa della Casa's Fiordiligi and of course Christa Ludwig's first Dorabella, but some of the Italian, apart from della Casa's, obviously, is horribly Germanic and I don't think the men are as elegant; this 1962 recording, however, was blessed and for many remains unsurpassed.

Oddly enough, I don't especially like either Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Alfredo Kraus in other repertoire, but here her patrician archness and pellucid technique are perfect for depicting the prim Fiordiligi and his slightly reedy, delicate tones are just right for suggesting Ferrando's starchy smugness before the teenage Angst of his rude awakening. Ludwig is of course delightful: warm and passionate of voice. Taddei is a sharp, biting, vocally acute Guglielmo and Berry's knowing, cynical humorousness as Don Alfonso is ideal. Hanny Steffek makes a pert, funny Despina. Furthermore, all their voices combine ideally, so ensembles are a joy, especially the famous "Soave sia il vento" and the sublime Brindisi quartet.

Böhm's pacing is just so for extracting the comedy and the orchestra's playing is impeccably stylish. OK; there are one or two ugly tape joins - notably thirty seconds into "Fra gli amplessi" - but otherwise the early stereo sound is beautifully clear and balanced. If you love this opera as I do but don't have this version in your collection, you should. The only real competition is Karajan's 1954 recording also with Schwarzkopf and a very fine cast but its sound is dated mono; I want that as a supplement to Böhm. I also enjoy very much Alain Lombard's languorous 1974 recording for the elegance of the singing but that remains an eccentric preference in comparison to this central interpretation.
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on 24 December 2012
Midway is rightly the most famous naval battle of all time. The precise set of circumstances that sent four Japanese carriers to the bottom of the Pacific at the cost of the USS Yorktown was so improbable that various attempts have been made at naval academies across the world to replicate the feat. And truth to tell, they never have: the simulations invariably end up with the Rising Sun in the ascendancy. The Japanese Imperial Navy never recovered from the abject defeat. It was America's finest hour.

This famous recording is another instance where everything went miraculously right on the day. There are plenty of Cosi fan Tuttis on the market but only the Karajan comes anywhere close to matching its luminosity and sense of style (Mozart: Così fan tutte). Sure, one can ascribe its success to the virtuosity of the singers, orchestra and conductor alike - and some would say that it was Walter Legge's finest hour - but there is a deeper consideration in play which I do not think we will ever fully grasp.

Whenever I hear Soave Sia ll Vento, such matters melt "in the conflagration of suns". They are not important. It is time to depart Cythera. Join us.
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