Mozart anime PTC5187044

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Anime Immortali
Franco Fagioli (counter-tenor)
Kammerorchester Basel/Daniel Bard
rec. 2020, Don Bosco, Paul Sacher Saal, Basel, Switzerland
Sung texts with English translations enclosed.
Reviewed as download from press preview
Pentatone PTC5187044 [47]

Argentinian counter-tenor Franco Fagioli has been one of the leading singers for close to two decades now, and he is still in top shape, as this disc, recorded three years ago, amply proves. He has specialised in baroque repertoire – as is the norm for his voice category – but his first music love was Mozart, as he writes in the foreword to this issue. This happened when he as a boy chorist was chosen to sing the first boy in an opera production of Die Zauberflöte. “What music! How joyful, how deep, how sad, how everything!” he writes and continues: “It was all evidently engraved in the depths of my being. At that moment, my need to study music was born. I chose to study the piano, somehow I wanted to be able to produce that music not only with my voice. And so I started, as I wanted to play Mozart.” And his devotion to Mozart has remained and here ha has finally found an opportunity to devote a whole disc to the music of his first love. Since his voice by many commentators has been regarded as the closest a present-day singer can be to sound like a castrato, it was a natural choice to select a good handful of arias Mozart composed for this voice type. Mostly from his early youth, when he spent some time in Italy, but he returned to it again very close to the end of his life when he composed La clemenza di Tito in the summer of 1791.

Mozart always composed his arias with specific singers in mind, in order to make them show off in best possible light. When he, at the tender age of 16, composed Lucio Silla in the autumn of 1772, he had the revered castrato soprano Venanzio Rauzzini at hand for the role of Cecilio, Roman senator in exile. Obviously he had a highly developed talent for legato singing, which we can hear in the aria Ah se a morir mi chiama (tr. 2). But he had other talents as well, and Mozart also wrote the often heard solo motet Exsultate, jubilate for him, and the coloratura fireworks of the opening movement and the concluding Alleluja are proof of Rauzzini’s expertise technique, while Virginum corona (tr. 10) again offers opportunities for legato singing: Rauzzini premiered the motet in a Milan church on 16 January 1773, while he still was singing Cecilio in the evening.

La finta giardiniera followed two years later, while Mozart still was in his late teens. It was premiered in Munich on 13 January 1775 and the castrato role of Ramiro, whose three arias are heard here, was probably taken by Tommaso Consoli, who later that spring was to create Aminta in Il re pastore in Salzburg.

The odd piece out on this disc is the aria Lungi le cure ingrate from the cantata Davidde penitente from 1785. It is a kind of hybrid insofar as most of the music was culled from Mozart’s unfinished mass in C minor. He only provided two new arias and a cadenza. Lungi le cure ingrate was a recycling of Laudamus te and is the only piece here not written for castrato.

Mozart’s last love affair with the castrato voice was his very last opera, La clemenza di Tito, where he returned to the opera seria format and created two of his greatest arias for Domenico Bedini, who was engaged for the role of Sesto. Both arias are frequently performed in recital programmes, and in particular Parto, parto, where Mozart also composed a counter part for his friend, the clarinettist Anton Stadler, here exquisitely played by Markus Niederhauser. This is certainly desert island music for me, and many are the great mezzo-sopranos who rub shoulders on my shelf marked “Parto, Parto”. Now I have to squeeze in Franco Fagioli there as well, since he fulfils, with knobs on, all the criteria: beautiful tone, deep feeling, good enunciation, sure-footed technique, and perceptiveness in the interplay with Markus Niederhauser’s clarinet. These criteria are applicable on everything he does here, including the phenomenal virtuosity of his coloratura singing for which he of course is universally hailed. The playing of Kammerorkester Basel must not be forgotten either, nor Mark Berry’s illuminating liner notes and the excellent recording. I only wish Pentatone had included some more music. There was room for another half-hour.

Göran Forsling

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La finta giardiniera, K. 196
1 Se l’augellin sen fugge
Lucio Silla, K. 135
2 Ah se a morir mi chiama
La finta giardiniera, K. 196
3 E giunge a questo segno
4 Va pure ad altri in braccio
Davidde penitente, K. 469
5 Lungi le cure ingrate
La clemenza di Tito, K. 621
6 Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio
7 Deh per questo istante solo
Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165
8 1. Exsultate, jubilate
9 2. Fulget amica dies
10 3. Virginum corona
11 4. Alleluja