September 2007

Mozart - Così fan tutte
Irmgard Seefried, Nan Merriman, Erika Köth, Ernst Haefliger, Hermann Prey, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, RIAS Chamber Choir, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Eugen Jochum cond.
Deutsche Grammophon 477 5669
Format: CD
Originally released: 1974
Reissue released: 2007

by Richard Freed

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

When this recording came out on LP (1964 in North America), it received mostly tepid reviews. Nearly everyone was gaga over Karl Böhm’s remake for HMV (EMI), which had been hyped to the max and was almost smothered in reverence. Böhm’s cast comprised Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Hanny Steffek, Alfredo Kraus, Giuseppe Taddei and Walter Berry. That set has been beautifully transferred to CD in EMI’s "Great Recordings of the Century" series, with no stinting on documentation, but those who never heard Jochum’s more straightforward account should be as thoroughly delighted to discover it now as old-timers will be to have it back.

Jochum’s tempos were brisk for their day, but they work beautifully and never hint at breathlessness. As apparent from the start, in the sparkling Overture, it is not simply a matter of speed, but of animation. This is apparent in the singing as well, and there is not a single real weakness in this marvelously interactive cast. And, incidentally, there are fewer cuts in the recitatives here than in Böhm’s recording (and several others).

Both the Böhm remake and this Jochum recording are 45 years old now, and there have been some handsome versions in the digital era. Sir Charles Mackerras made a very persuasive recording of Così that benefits from a unique level of stylistic authenticity as well as a vitality similar to Jochum’s and, of course, the spacious realism provided by the Telarc engineers, but the Jochum retains its effervescent charm and the sound is well preserved in this new transfer. A libretto is not provided, but in place of a conventional synopsis of the action, DG has ingeniously provided a very effective trilingual précis of what transpires in every individual number. This is an excellent value, irrespective of price -- though that factor is a further recommendation.