September 2006

Mozart - La Clemenza di Tito
Mark Padmore, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Bernarda Fink, Marie-Claude Cappuis, Rias Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester; RenÚ Jacobs, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HMC 801923.24
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2006

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Ask a casual Mozart fan and you will probably be told that La Clemenza di Tito was Mozart’s last opera. That is not quite correct. Though it was written amid a flurry of activity during the last year of Mozart’s life, it was followed closely by The Magic Flute. It was, however, Mozart’s final stab at the old, defunct type of opera called opera seria -- an Italian term meaning "noble and serious." By Mozart’s day, this was not considered "in," as evidenced by Mozart’s concentration on opera buffa, a form used for The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Marriage of Figaro.

Le Clemena Di Tito was premiered at the coronation ceremony of Austrian Emperor Leopold II when he was crowned King of Bohemia. It was not a big hit like Mozart’s other operas. There is a famous (though probably apocryphal) story of the Empress Maria Luisa calling it "una porcheria tedesca" ("German rubbish"). Still, if one looks closely at what Mozart did to create Tito, one can begin to see his genius at work. The detailed writing in the included booklet gives a comprehensive description of the composer’s compositional process.

There are a number of good or excellent performances of Tito available on CD, led by such noted Mozart interpreters as Sir Charles Mackerras, Karl B÷hm, and Colin Davis. What makes this one special enough to make one lay out hard-earned cash for it? First, there is the sound. This hybrid multichannel SACD offers excellent sonics from both orchestra and chorus. Second, Jacobs’ interpretation is topnotch, due mostly to his ability to climb inside the work and extract Mozart's intent, as he has demonstrated with his Marriage of Figaro. Finally, thanks to the hybrid nature of this SACD, anyone can listen to it, but as you move up the equipment ladder (from CD to stereo SACD to multichannel SACD,) you’ll gain even more enjoyment from this three-disc set.