Continuing their complete Mozart opera recording cycle, Classical Opera’s latest release shines a light on two early opera works by Mozart.
Grabmusik was reported to be the product of a test set by the prince of Salzburg, who: “... not crediting that such masterly compositions were really those of a child, shut him up for a week, during which he was not permitted to see any one, and was left only with music paper, and the words of an oratorio ... During this short time he composed a very capital oratorio, which was most highly approved of upon being performed.” Performed for Holy Week the title can be translated as ‘Cantata on Christ’s Grave’ (literally ‘Grave Music’), and the anonymous text takes the form of a dialogue between a tormented soul, who is desperately lamenting the tragedy of Christ’s death, and an angel.
Bastien und Bastienne is the only one of Mozart’s operas to have been written for performance in a private house rather than a theatre. Commissioned at some point in mid-1768 by the renowned and controversial German physician Franz Anton Mesmer, it tells the tale of two young shepherds, Bastien and Bastienne, being reconciled in love the fortune teller and magician Collas after Bastien has brie y been lured away by the attractions of a noble lady from the city. This new recording uses Mozart’s original 1767 setting of the libretto by F. W. Weiskern & J. H. F. Müller, the provenance of which was only established in 1980s.
Classical Opera was founded in 1997 by conductor Ian Page to explore the works of Mozart and his contemporaries, and has emerged as one of the leading exponents in its eld. In 2017 it launched a new brand, The Mozartists, enabling it to broaden its ever-expanding concert work while continuing to present recordings and performances of complete operas under the name of Classical Opera. With its own acclaimed period-instrument orchestra, the company has attracted widespread critical and public recognition, not only for the high quality of its performances but also for its imaginative programming and its ability to discover and nurture outstanding young singers. In 2015 it launched MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year project following the chronological trajectory of Mozart’s life, works and in uences.
Classical Opera has performed regularly at many of London and the UK’s leading venues, including Wigmore Hall, the Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, Birmingham Town Hall and Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, and on tour in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, where it enjoyed a three-concert residency at the 2016 Eisenstadt Haydn Festival. It has mounted staged productions of many of Mozart’s operas, and in 2009 presented The Royal Opera’s new production of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes. It has also given the world première of the ‘original’ version of Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, and the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito, Telemann’s Orpheus and Jommelli’s Il Vologeso.
Classical Opera’s first two recordings – ‘The A-Z of Mozart Opera’ (Sony BMG, 2007, re-released on Signum Classics, 2014) and ‘Blessed Spirit – a Gluck retrospective’ (Wigmore Hall Live, 2010) – were both selected for Gramophone magazine’s annual Critic’s Choice. In May 2016 the company released ‘Where’er You Walk’, with tenor Allan Clayton, which was shortlisted for the 2017 International Opera Awards, and this was followed in May 2017 by The Mozartists’ début recording ‘Per do!’, a programme of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven concert arias featuring soprano Sophie Bevan. This current recording is the seventh release in Classical Opera’s complete recording cycle of Mozart’s operas.