Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Johann Christian Bach - La Clemenza di Scipione - Hermann Max, Das Kleine Konzert







Composed in 1778, J.C. Bach's La Clemenza di Scipione is a nice, direct, fat-free work. The arias tend to be short (not one of them is a da capo), the recitatives are to the point and likewise brief, and the action moves swiftly. Roman Scipio (tenor) has taken Cartagena and Spanish soprano princess Arsinda (and her soprano pal, Idalba) prisoner. Male soprano, fellow non-Roman Lucieo, is betrothed to Arsinda, while the Roman general Marzio (tenor) is in love with Idalba and vice-versa. The whole plot revolves around the heroic Lucieo's attempts to rescue Arsinda, et al., his being taken prisoner, and his being threatened by death if he refuses to pledge allegiance to Rome. He never does Johann Christian Bach give in, but Scipio does--hence the clemency--and Scipio gives everyone their freedom once he realizes how impressive a gal Arsinda is. Everyone swears loyalty to Rome. Hooray! There's plenty of room for grief arias, anger arias, revenge arias, why-is-my-life-so-dreadful arias, and if-only-I-could-end-your(-my)-suffering arias, in many tempos.

Orchestrally this is a wonderful performance. Das Kleine Konzert plays with ease, verve, and accuracy, and Hermann Max has a terrific feel for this après-Baroque, Classically Mozartean music, bringing its crisp rhythms to life. Little stage effects present on this live recording are welcome: When a clash of arms is referred to in the text, we hear swords. Except for applause at the opera's close, the audience could be mummified. The chorus too is excellent.

The solo singing, however, could be better. Markus Schäfer gets by in the coloratura, has an appealing if slightly colorless sound, and is believable as both the angry and forgiving Scipio; but he errs in interpolating notes slightly higher than written--the middle of his voce is his strength. Male soprano Jörg Waschinski can't handle coloratura (his first aria often becomes a blur) but he's energetic and the piercing top of his voice is interestingly heroic, even if it does take a while to get used to. Linda Perillo (Arsinda) seems to be an unfinished product--the desire and brains are there but the technique is not always certain, although she improves as the performance progresses. Her friend Idalba--Christine Wolff--suffers from the same problem. Hans Jörg Mämmel, as Marzio, is part warrior, part lover (as he explains in a first-act aria, with nicely chugging lower strings and slashing upper strings to martially impress us), and in fact his tenor is more colorful and secure than Schäfer's--their roles may have been better performed if reversed.

The music throughout is inventive and expert. The opera's longest aria, for Arsinda in Act 2, has obbligato parts for flute, oboe, and violin, oddly reminiscent of Mozart's "Martern aller arten" in The Abduction from the Seraglio (and like that aria, it's about suffering), and the largo-allegro Arsinda-Lucieo duet that ends Act 1 is utterly charming, but sadly, the latter pinpoints Waschinski's weird vocal shortcomings. Is this set recommended? Yes, despite less than virtuosic soloists, and it makes you hungry for more of J.C. Bach's operas.--Robert Levine, 


ape, scans


  1. Excuse me Otto, only there appear the link of three files, might it include the link that are absent?. Many graces Otto, his blog is an exchequer of exchequers. Javier. Madrid.

  2. thks for your excellent work pls fill the links .


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