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Mozart: Don Giovanni / Ghiaurov, Ludwig, Watson, Freni, Gedda, Berry, Crass. Klemperer

Notes & Reviews:

Otto Klemperer was born on 14th May 1885 in Breslau, Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland) and died on July 6th 1973 in Zurich and hence enxt year we mark 40 years since his passing. Although disabled by a stroke suffered whilst a rain tumor was being taken out he became a world-renowned conductor whose recording were the touchstones for the EMI catalog. Besides the classics of the symphonic repertoire he recorded a number of operas including four by Mozart.

His recording of Don Giovanni was made in June and July 1966 and has been a favorite of many since its release starring Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov who as then aged 36. The opera was cast from strength with Nicolai Geda, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, Claire Watson, Franz Crass and Paolo Montarsolo; in the role of Zerlina was the superbly talented Mirella Freni, then aged 31, whose performances as Mimi in and EMI recording and a film with Herbert von Karajan had attracted worldwide attention.

Quite by chance when various tapes were being sorted in EMI's Abbey Road studios some containing rehearsals, actual takes, play-back and discussions in the control room were found. This remarkable discovery prompted EMI to commission Jon Tolansky, well-known for this remarkable insights into recording and who has supplied a number of programs for EMI Classics, to listen to the tapes and use them to make a "documentary in sound" which would demonstrate how parts of this classic recording was made.

He chose the Overture, thereby showing Klemperer's close attention to orchestral detail, and the opening of Act One Scene Three where the peasants are celebrating the forthcoming marriage of Zerlina and Masetto which brings in two soloists and chorus. Zerlina's beautiful aria "Batti, atti o el Masetto" is then recorded with Klemperer clearly adoring - as we all do - Freni's seductive singing. The selection is completed with Don Giovanni's serenade from Act 2 "Deh vieni alla finestra."

MusicWeb International, 21st May 2013
The cast is strong overall and to match Klemperer's weighty reading the producers, Peter Andry and Suvi Raj Grubb, picked dark voices for the male roles...[Klemperer] has his own concept, marvellous singers and this music can stand all kinds of treatments - as long as there is a creative mind at work.


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