The Hanover Band
Sir Charles Mackerras
Adriano in Siria
Aria: Cara, la dolce fiamma (original version) JC Bach
Serena il tuo bel core
embellishments - Mozart
Alcandro, Io confesso...Non só d'onde viene, recitative and aria (original version) Mozart Majella Cullagh
Aria: Ah se a morir mi chiama il fato mio crudele
embellishments - Mozart
Le nozze di Figaro
Act II: Aria: Voi che sapete che cosa e amor embellishments
- Domenico Corri
La clemenza de Scipione
Aria: Infelice in van m'affanno JC Bach embellishments - Mozart
Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail
Aria: Martern aller Arten Mozart
La clemenza di Scipione
Duet: Deh, quel pianto omai tergete JC Bach
La clemenza di Tito
Duet: Ah perdona al primo affetto Mozart
'Opera Rara's new CD proved to be an absolute delight, leaving a sense of regret only over its brevity. A single disc can do little more than whet one's appetite for further exploration of a barely researched area: the art of ornamentation, both improvised and written, in late-Baroque opera.
Mackerras, who leads these recorded performances with supple discretion, is one of the few who have made a careful study.
Modern ears are still likely to find ornamentation sounding painfully difficult rather than beautifully expressive, though recent generations of singers have been coming round to the required technique. For Opera Rara, the singing is done by Montague, a lyric mezzo; Elizabeth Futral, a lyric-coloratura soprano; and Majella Cullagh, whose voice lies midway between. Vocal dexterity is a given, but it serves musicality and graceful shaping. Arias are distributed by voice coloration - Futral, for example, handles the Clemenza di Scipione
arias, calling for a high, bright timbre. All three singers have to deal with taxing extremes of register, and all seem vocally comfortable as well as emotionally committed. In the two duets that conclude the recital, teamwork and blending are impeccable. Enthusiasts of such elegant music-making won't mind having to listen repeatedly to get to the heart of what these radiant singers, and this artful conductor, have to share with us.'
'Skill in the art of embellishment was a prime requisite for any Baroque or Classical singer. Quoting the treatise by the castrato Pier Francesco Tosi, Sir Charles Mackerras points out that many female singers expected the decorations to be written out for them 'so they would not have to improvise on the spot but could think about the variations and practise them'.
Mozart gave a model demonstration of this when he elaborated a clutch of arias (including one by JC Bach and two of his own) for Aloysia Weber, the brilliant soprano he had fallen in love with in Mannheim. Especially intriguing is Mozart's treatment of a dignified but slightly chilly aria from Bach's opera Adriano in Siria. The first of the two ornamented versions recorded here (Mozart prepared four in total) makes the expression more personal and heartfelt, with the liberal use of sighing appoggiaturas, while the second, in deference to Aloysia's range and virtuosity, transforms Bach's stately music into a flamboyant coloratura showpiece. Here and in an aria from Mozart's Lucio Si/la, Diana
Montague sings the unadorned original text with her trademark mastery of the Classical style, the tone warm and rounded, the phrasing elegant, the registers smoothly integrated. She is just as impressive in Domenico Corn's artful embellishment of Cherubino's 'Voi che sapete', where for once the decorator becomes the decorated - and the adolescent page acquires an improbable layer of sophistication. Mozart's elaborations for Aloysia are adroitly dispatched by sopranos Majella Cullagh and Elizabeth Futral, the former intense and vibrant, the latter bright and 'pingy', and surely a match for Aloysia in the diamantine precision of her coloratura.
The Hanover Band play crisply and stylishly under Mackerras's alert direction while, as ever, Opera Rara's documentation is exemplary, with texts, translations and illuminating notes from Mackerras himself.'International Record Review
'In 'Mozart the Decorator' Sir Charles Mackerras guides three of Opera Rara's finest singers through spectacular examples of Mozart's skill at embellishing a vocal line...
All 12 tracks on this generously full CD act not only as evidence of Classical composers' skills in writing engagingly for the voice, they also show off to admiration the abilities of Diana Montague, Majella Cullagh and Futral (as well as the well-honed and stylish playing of the Hanover Band)...
This is a marvellous CD.'Sir Charles Mackerras
writes in the programme notes that:
'Mozart was often inspired by another composer's work and determined to write a composition in similar style. In doing so he often transformed a quite pleasant and charming original into pure gold, so that it became a work of genius.
Mozart particularly admired the music of his somewhat senior contemporary, Johann Christian Bach, the only member of that vast musical family to excel in the operatic genre... even though his own teenage operas such as Mitridate and Lucio Silla already surpass Bach's in terms of ensemble writing, musical characterisation and orchestration.
Mozart came to coach the lovely and brilliant Aloysia Weber. He first met the budding young soprano when she was 17 and he 21 and he fell head over heels in love with her. He did everything to try and please her by composing music specially for her and adapting his own previously written music to suit her. He also wrote a set of embellishments for her so that she could try them and see which of them best suited her voice. Today we can profit from our knowledge of Mozart's ornamentation and apply it to others of his vocal works.'