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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: La clemenza di Tito, K. 621
Mark Padmore (Tito), Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Vitellia), Bernarda Fink (Sesto), Marie-Claude Chappuis (Annio), Sunhae Im (Servilia), Sergio Foresti (Publio), Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, RIAS Kammerchor, René Jacobs (Conductor)
Recording: Teldex Studio Berlin, Germany (November 2005) – 120’ 15
harmonia mundi #HMC 901923.24 – Booklet in French, English and German; Libretto in French, Italian, English and German

Pietro Metastasio, well known as the court poet to Leopold II, was a proficient writer of opera seria libretti. Some of his most dramatic writings were created between the years 1730 and 1740, one of which was La clemenza di Tito (1734). This Metastasio work was so popular at the time that forty musical renditions were created prior to Mozart’s involvement.

Because of Antonio Salieri’s unavailability to take on the royal assignment of La clemenza di Tito, Mozart was suddenly commissioned in mid-July 1791 and given the libretto only after Caterino Mazzolà reworked the original text. On August 19 or 20 Mozart received the revision and with a little over two weeks to go, La clemenza di Tito premiered on September 6, 1791. Quite astonishing. Since this date, however, La clemenza di Tito is not without its fair share of critics and skeptics.

harmonia mundi nicely captures music and commentary, and addresses a vast range of question marks surrounding La clemenza di Tito. The enclosed booklet is a broadened academic “mini thesis” co-authored by Conservatoire de Paris lecturer/musicologist Florence Badol-Bertrand and the esteemed René Jacobs, delving into serious detail events leading up to and during the creation of Mozart’s last opera. What may be the most fascinating section is Jacobs’ writing, “Seven Misconceptions About La clemenza di Tito” where he offers compelling arguments favoring this oft disregarded gem. As in other Mozart recordings, René Jacobs explores intrinsic and peripheral aspects leading to the ultimate conclusion: La clemenza di Tito is underrated and merits closer review. Reading the print first will greatly enrich the listener. (Note: neither the forward nor the synopsis is translated into Italian, only the libretto…a gross oversight especially since the opera is sung in Italian.)

Though not on the same level, musically speaking, as Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte or Le nozze di Figaro this album illuminates the many outstanding qualities and techniques used in Mozart’s self re-categorized Ridotta a vera opera. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, RIAS Kammerchor and all principal singers are top notch. Alexandrina Pendatchanska delivers polished radiance and exemplary emotive qualities particularly while singing Vitellia’s rondò, “Non più di fiori”, alongside a sparkling basset horn obbligato. The Annio/Servilia duet from Act I, sung by Marie-Claude Chappuis and Sunhae Im, has a marvelously brightened edge. Act I’s finale has grand bits of dramatic flair, and Mark Padmore’s Tito is purely magnanimous. These are only a few of the pocketed treasures.

Interpreting works from the world’s most memorable composers can be quite the challenge, but anyone who’s a Mozartian fan will want this La clemenza di Tito to add to their bookshelf.

Christie Grimstad




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