x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin/Jacobs:Die Zauberflöte

The release of a new recording of Mozart's last opera, The Magic Flute, is vigorous and thrilling at times.

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The road to operatic recordings is fraught with peril. Imagine listening to a film without seeing a screen: a certain amount of comprehension is possible, but in missing out on the action and the staging, much is inevitably lost. It is this, perhaps, that has led to opera's popular reduction to the classic arias, performed again and again on compilations and debut albums by the latest hot crossover singer. The release of a new recording of Mozart's final opera, the preposterously plotted Die Zauberflöte, or The Magic Flute, required, then, a special treatment to make it stand out, and that's exactly what it received from the Belgian counter-tenor-turned-conductor René Jacobs. He has been ploughing his way through the Mozart operas on the excellent Harmonia Mundi label for some time, and has gained a reputation for his sometimes startling adaptations. On this version of The Magic Flute, it is his faithfulness to the original manuscript that makes it such a surprising recording.

His introduction of all sorts of peculiar, but apparently authentic, sound effects, as well as fortepiano accompaniments during the recitative, makes for a rather disconcerting listen - there is, in fact, something to be said for the "songs from the shows" approach, especially with the singspiel form - yet it is vigorous and thrilling at times too. Perhaps more of a revelation for Magic Flute aficionados than novices, then, but a fascinating listen nonetheless.

Fleur de Paris
12 Cellists of the Berliner Philharmoniker
(EMI Classics)
Formed in 1974, an ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic's 12 cellists might seem a peculiar proposition, but the range of timbre and expression achieved is extraordinary. Here, the cellists explore the music of France, which provides perfect material for the sentimental sounds of the cello, particularly on the real heartbreakers such as Ravel's Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte.

24 Preludes and Fugues
Dmitri Shostakovich, Roger Woodward (piano)
(Celestial Harmonies)
The Australian pianist Roger Woodward is a veteran of Shostakovich, and his delicate tone, honed on a recording earlier this year of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, allows a remarkable interpretation of these sublime preludes and fugues. Give it a couple of listens to unlock the composer's harmonic innovations.