Mozart in London
with Rebecca Bottone, Eleanor Dennis, Anna Devin, Martene Grimson, Ana Maria Labin: sopranos
Helen Sherman: mezzosoprano
Ben Johnson, Robert Murray: tenors
Steve Devine: harpsichord
Ian Page, conductor
Signum Classics, 2018
Tracklist and more details
Mozart in London: Overview
Considering that the title of the present recording is Mozart in London, it is better to think about it not merely as an album, but as a journey, exactly as the journey that the Mozarts made between 1764 and 1764. Visiting the British capital, the Mozarts did not only have the chance to show off the virtuosity and precocious musical skills of the infant prodigy, but also to be in touch with some of the most popular composers of the time. Also, they watched the performances of their music, something that left a deep impression on the child composer.
As part of the project Mozart 250, Mozart in London features music written both by Mozart and his contemporaries. The purpose is to offer a general picture of the musical taste during the lifetime of the most celebrated composer, combining music written by himself to that, often lesser known, composed by his colleagues.
This recording brings together performances held at London’s Milton Court in February 2015.
Mozart in London: the Performance
As I had the occasion to point out in one of my earliest reviews on Mozart’s opera Zaide, Ian Page is a gifted conductor who really knows how to get the best out of the music he performs. Mozart in London has a clear and precise aim, represented by the brightness and joy of its melodies.
Even though Mozart’s three early Symphonies (K16, 19 and 19a) are quite conventional in their style, they are performed with such vivacity and élan that it is easy to forget that they are “merely” the works of a young composer. The Mozartists play with intensity and the brilliant sound of their instruments make these works shine. The same happens with the witty – I would like to say humorous – overture from Rush’s The Capricious Lovers and with Abel’s Symphony in E flat. As for the last orchestral work, J. C. Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto, it is nothing but a shimmering gem. Here, you really do not know whether to praise more Steve Devine’s elegance and agility or Page’s effervescence.
For the most part, Mozart in London features arias and scenes from operas. All but one of them (Va, dal furor portata K21) are written not by Mozart but by his contemporaries. As it was the case with the overture from The Capricious Lovers, several of the arias are world premiere recordings. They are taken from operas by Arne, J. C. Bach, Duni, Arnold, Pescetti, Rush, Bates and Perez.
On the whole, the soloists are very good, even though tenor Ben Johnson’s intonation is not always impeccable in Non so donde viene from J. C. Bach’s Ezio and his singing is not really smooth in Mozart’s aria Va, dal furor portata. Things go better with the sopranos as Anna Devin (Confusa, smarrita from Bach’s Berenice and Deh lascia from his Adriano in Siria), Rebecca Bottone (Hist, hist! From Arnold’s The Maid of the Mill) and Eleanor Dennis (Cara la dolce fiamma, again from Adriano in Siria) all shows their vocal and dramatic commitment. Mezzosoprano Helen Sherman, who sings two arias from Arne’s Artaxerses, is noteworthy too for the agility of her voice and her fine coloratura.