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Best Recordings of 2013 (#2)

High time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2013. My lists for the previous years: 2012, 2011, (2011 – “Almost”), 2010, (2010 – “Almost”), 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 2 - New Release

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Kasper Holten, Juan, Lars Ulrik Mortensen (conductor), Concerto Copenhagen et al., axiom|FILMS AXM044

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart / Kasper Holten
L.U.Mortensen / Concerto Copenhagen
C.Maltman, M.Petrenko, E.Futral,
M.Bengtsson, K.Dragojevic et al.

available at Amazon
axiom|FILMS Blu-ray

Juan sits in the audience and relishes the overture of Don Giovanni. At intermission, he relishes Anna—daughter of the police commissioner and girlfriend of his buddy Ottavio. They conspire to meet afterwards. “Lep”, Juan’s Russian, broken English, pronoun-dropping man-for-hire, his fucking sentry as he grumbles, “freezes ass off outside” as he films “boss’ exploits in HD for archive of love and conquest.”

Kasper Holten’s Juan is a film “based on Mozart & Da Ponte’s Don Giovanni”, a defensively deflecting claim to convey that the work has been translated, tailored, and adapted from the original. What it really is, though, is the freshest, most authentic reanimation of the opera I know… a masterpiece in itself for its treatment of another masterpiece. Not authentic, of course, to those who look for authenticity in form and on the surface, rather than in essence and meaning.

The venture, always sung on location rather than set to a superimposed soundtrack, seems like it was tailored around the ravishingly suave Christopher Maltman, and in a way it’s a continuation of the stupendous “perfect conservative production” that Claus Guth produced in Salzburg between 2008 and 2011. (See 2010 review.) The cast includes a host of brilliant singing actors, one more moving, touching, arousing than the next, chief among them Elizabeth Futral’s tragic Elvira, Maria Bengtsson’s potent Anna, Katija Dragojevic’s tantalizing Zerlina, and Mikhail Petrenko’s rough hewn Leporello. The music is driven splendidly by the original instrument Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen who are as vivid as the images of this thrilling movie (that happens to be an opera).

As Paul Johnson writes in (the just about only insightful part of) his “Mozart – A Life”: The notion of the irresistible force (Giovanni) crashing into an immovable stone object (Commendatore) is a glorious one, well spelled out by some of the best music Mozart ever wrote. Holten spells it out on film, literally, in a way that has to be seen by anyone with half an open mind. The release schedule for this film is all over the place. If you have an international-region player (or computer), you can best get the DVD or Blu-Ray very cheaply from the UK or Germany.

# 2 – Reissue

Ludwig van Beethoven, The String Quartets, Quatuor Végh, naïve 4871

available at Amazon
L.v.Beethoven, The String Quartets
The String Quintets
Quatuor Végh
naïve 4871

For old world Beethoven gorgeousness in “yesteryear-glow”, there’s no substitute for the Végh Quartet. Just mentioned last year while hailing the very fine Quatuor Talich, their frightfully unavailable second recording has been re-issued at last—seemingly with the same barcode and the same production oddities: jewel cases inside a fold-up box. No matter: No one, not even the Amadeus Quartet, offers even more musicality especially in the Razumovsky Quartets. A delight!

-> Best Recordings of 2013 #10
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #6
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #5
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #4
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #3
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #1