Teodor Currentzis and "The Real Mozart"
Teodor Currentzis is a Greek born conductor who trained in Moscow. Today he lives and works in the city of Perm, in the Ural mountains.
Most recordings of Mozart's works come from Salzburg, Vienna, Paris and New York. They have featured the legendary post war Vienna ensemble: Schwarzkopf, Grummer, Seefried, Fischer-Dieskau, Dermota, Kunz, Karajan and Bohm. Ricardo Muti conducts the Mozart operas in Milan and London. The latest round of Mozart opera recordings comes from Perm.
Currentzis has been based in Perm for several years. He is the founder of the orchestra MusicaAeterna. City officials in theUrals give the Maestro hours, days and weeks of rehearsal, anything he wants.
Fresh from Perm come two recordings of Mozart-daPonte operas, both consideredmiracles of thecanon: Le nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan Tutte. Don Giovanni is soon to come. The Currentzis-Perm-Aeternarecordings of Mozart operas have received unprecedented critical attention. My buddy Lloyd Schwartz on NPR swears by them, and Lloyd knows his stuff.
So what's the big deal? We expect excellence from recorded performances originating in London, Vienna, Milan, Salzburg and New York. But Perm?
Savvy marketing and a hunky conductor with sad eyes are a good beginning. These recordings are licensed to SONY but they'vehad little more than a shrugginginterest in classical products for years. TeodorCurrentzis? Yes. In addition to the hunky and sad faced photos on thepressreleases, Mr Currnetzis is a maestro of controversial performance practice and he is not shy.
"A composer like Mozart had to be very courageous to approach such fragile aspects of existence and dare to to express the truth that we all know, deep down: behind all the masks of propriety that the prescriptions for the right way to live have come to contradict what the human being is, with a its boundless need to love, to be loved and to explore."
Currentzis and his colleagues, especially in Cosi fan Tutte, have successfully separated romantic love from eros, without neglecting either. Gone are the mugging, flirtations and performing. The story of the operas unfold to your ears in real time. Nothing is naughty. The stakes even in comedy-and many of these performances are delicious-are high.
Of the singers there is not a big name to be heard. Renee Fleming and Juan Diego Florez don't work from Perm. Currentzis has created an ensemble of vocalists mostly up to the task of Mozart's writing. There have been a few cavils over soprano Simone Kermes, the Fiordilgi and Countess Almaviva. She has a lovely voice lacking somewhat in presence. Cosi fan tutte's Per pieta is too much for many sopranos, and Ms. Kermes croons and gulps. It is interesting that blend is lacking between between the love torn sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella ( Marlena Enman.) Often you can pass one sister off for the other. Not here.
Musica Aeterna is recorded to the fore but the balance is not bad. The laughter and sadness of Mozart's orchestra is the star of these recordings. The winds laugh and the valveless horns punctuate nicely. No harpsichords here. Maxim Emelyanchev plays a fortepiano commenting, often forcefully, on the action. The recording is clean, warm and spacious. These recordings are worth hearing and worth a trip to the library. Buy them if, like me, these operas remain part of your soul. The characters are overheard, not just presented. You are listening to performances you can nearly see. But don't throw away Bohm, Karajan, Levine or Muti.