180 Days With Mozart And Me

A Survey Of The Philips Complete Mozart Edition…From Symphonies Through Theatre And Ballet Music

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Of Bike Rides and Reconstructed Songs (German Operas, Box 16)

May 29th, 2010 · Box 16: German Operas, Erik Smith, K344 (Part II), Mozart at 23, Mozart at 24, Reconstruction by Erik Smith, Salzburg (1779-80), Zaide, Zaide (Part II)

German OperasMy wife and I took a long bike ride today. We were out about three hours, with a stop for lunch along the way. I loved it, although I got more sun than I probably should have.

Still, this is what summer is all about.

And I have to enjoy it while I can. I have to have an operation on my knee to repair a torn meniscus. I had surgery scheduled last week. But I postponed it so I could enjoy summer the way I wanted to – lots of bike rides, hikes, walks in the woods, being out and about. Surgery is no guarantee I’d be able to do those things. And I didn’t want to risk it.

So my knee isn’t 100%. It’s more like 75%. But at least it works.

So I’m going to may hay while the sun shines, as they say.

Today is Part II of Mozart’s opera Zaide. I wrote about it yesterday.

It’s worth noting that much of today’s opera was [Read more →]

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Of Unusual Occupations and Unfinished Operas (German Operas, Box 16)

May 28th, 2010 · Allazim, Armin Ude, Bernhard Klee, Box 16: German Operas, Drei Sklaven, Edith Mathis, Gomatz, Gunther Koch, Ingvar Wixell, Joachime Vogt, K344, K344 (Part I), Mozart at 23, Mozart at 24, Osmin, Peter Schreier, Reiner Suss, Salzburg (1779-80), Staatskapelle Berlin, Sultan Soliman, Vorsanger, Walter Weih, Werner Hollweg, Wolfgang Wagner, Zaide

German OperasI like watching old movies, the really old black and whites, and seeing the occupations people had back then. Jobs like elevator operator, soda jerk, gas-station attendant, and switchboard operator. Today, those jobs seem archaic. And unnecessary.

But I’m sure many jobs today will seem that way in 20 years.

If there are any jobs left.

By the way, I was a petroleum transfer engineer once.

I pumped gas at a local station.

Unusual occupations. They may look silly now. But I miss those jobs. They recall simpler times.

I liked today’s opera, which is called Zaide, K344. Today’s installment is Part I.

I like Symphony in G, K318 (Overture). I like the spoken parts (and there are a lot of them), probably because they’re not always sung. They’re actually spoken, like a conversation. (Example: Track 4: “Noch nie war mir vergönnt” .)

And I like the voices. Especially the voices. Even the cadence of the music is intriguing. Take Track 19 (“Wer hungrig bei der Tafel sitzt”), for example. It bounces along, almost in a sing-song way, some of the time with the vocalist laughing. It’s an unusual song.

This is a pleasant, albeit strange little opera. It doesn’t sound or feel like [Read more →]

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Of Tater Tots and… (German Operas, Box 16)

May 27th, 2010 · Box 16: German Operas, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe (Part III), K196, K196 (Part III), Mozart at 24, Munich (May 1 1789), Tater Tots

German OperasWhen I was growing up, there was something about tater tots that gave me the heebie jeebies.

Don’t ask me to explain it. I can’t.

I had the same reaction to Brussels sprouts – an instant disliking for their texture, taste, and smell.

Now, Brussels sprouts I’m sure everyone can understand. But tater tots? They’re a step away from french fries. What’s not to like?

I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe I waited too long and they got cold. Maybe they were a bad batch and were all gritty and chewy. Did I mention cold?

All I know for sure is that I balked at eating them.

So my mom made me sit there until I did.

Hence, the cold part.

That’s the way I feel about La finta giardiniera (“The Pretend Garden-Girl”), K.196, an Italian opera, which Mozart re-worked into Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, K196, a German opera.

This is the aural equivalent of tater tots.

Here is what I listened to [

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Of Sheer Monotony. Period. (German Operas, Box 16)

May 26th, 2010 · Box 16: German Operas, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe (Part II), K196 (Part II), Mozart at 24, Munich (May 1 1789)

German Operas Part Two is no better than Part One.

Just as I’m sure Part Three will be no better than the previous two.

What was Mozart thinking when he re-worked La finta giardiniera (“The Pretend Garden-Girl”), K.196, an Italian opera, into Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, K196, a German opera?

It didn’t improve by changing the language, I can assure you. It’s just as monotonous.

Here is what I listened to today, complete with the best guesses of scholars regarding where and when each composition was penned. This information was pieced together from [Read more →]

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Of Relaxation and Retreads (German Operas, Box 16)

May 25th, 2010 · Box 16: German Operas, Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, K196, K196 (Part I), La finta giardiniera (re-worked), Mozart at 24, Munich (May 1 1789)

German Operas Man, what a let down this opera is.

Yesterday’s opera (Bastien und Bastienne, K50) was a pleasant surprise.

Today’s opera (Die Gartnerin aus Liebe, K196) sounds like dialogue from a World War II movie set to nondescript music.

It’s dreadful.

According to its entry on Wikipedia:

In 1780 Mozart converted the opera – La finta giardiniera (“The Pretend Garden-Girl”), K. 196, an Italian opera – into a German Singspiel called Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe (also Die verstellte Gärtnerin), which involved rewriting some of the music. Until a copy of the complete Italian version was found in the 1970s, the German translation was the only known complete score.

I reviewed what I wrote of La finta giardiniera and I see that I also called it “dreadful.” The only difference is I called it “abysmal” as well. I haven’t gotten to that word yet for this opera. I probably will tomorrow.

I didn’t know when I popped the CD into my laptop this morning that it was a re-tread of an earlier opera. Now it makes sense why [Read more →]

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Of Beginnings and Boy Choirs (German Operas, Box 16)

May 24th, 2010 · Bastien, Bastienne, Box 16: German Operas, Colas, David Busch, Dominik Orieschnig, Ernst Wurdinger, Georg Nigl, K50, LOST, Mozart at 12, Mozart at 23, Mozart at 24, Uwe Christian Harrer, Vienna (Summer 1768), Wiener Symphoniker

German Operas I really needed this opera today.

List night’s series finale of LOST left at least four dozen unanswered questions hanging in the air. And I’m not succumbing to hyperbole here. I just listed in an e-mail to a friend about four dozen questions that received no answer last night – despite the fact that the network promised this would be the season in which all of our questions were answered.

So, this morning, I feel uneasy, unsettled, unsatisfied.

Bastien und Bastienne to the rescue!

Mozart wrote this opera (which is K50) when he was 12 years old.

German Operas Yet, it doesn’t sound juvenile. It is melodic, scaled back (I’d use the world “simple,” but no opera is simple), and features voices and instruments I haven’t heard before. The singers are children. And the story unfolds with conversations and songs that don’t sound forced or melodramatic. They sound natural, like two young boys talking – but with reverb added so that it’s obvious they’re on a stage and this is a play unfolding.

The overall effect is a kind of innocence or purity. This opera has a magical feel to it, as does the entire CD. The last two tacks (Track 18, Die Zufriedenheit: Was frag ich viel and Track 19, Komm, liebe Zither, komm) are not part of the opera. The former is K349, written by Mozart when he was 24 or 25. The latter is K351, written around the same time and in the same place (Munich, 1780-81). They are songs that feature [Read more →]

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Of Endings and Endings (Box 15, Late Italian Operas)

May 23rd, 2010 · Box 15: Late Italian Operas, Chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Frederica von Stade, K621, K621 (Part II), La clemenza di Tito, La clemenza di Tito (Part II), Lucia Popp, Stuart Burrows

Late Italian Operas I’m glad today’s CD is the last of the two-part opera La clemenza di Tito, K621, written by Mozart when he was 35 – just a few short months before his untimely demise.

Today’s CD, 11 of 11, finishes the box of Mozart’s Late Italian Operas. Tomorrow starts a brand-new box of CDs: German Operas, an 11-CD set that contains some real gems.

There are just 16 days left in my journey through the life of Mozart. Two boxed sets, the first containing 11 CDs. The second containing five. I’m on target to finish when I thought I would – June 8th, one day before my birthday.

As much as I’ve enjoyed this journey, I’ll be glad to wake up on June 9th and not have the responsibility of posting another blog about Mozart.

But, for now, today, I have to listen to La clemenza di Tito one last time.

There’s not much new in Part II. My favorite tracks are those unlike any others – full-on [Read more →]

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Of Anticipated Saturdays and Underappreciated Operas (Box 15, Late Italian Operas)

May 22nd, 2010 · Annio, Box 15: Late Italian Operas, Charles Taylor, Frederica von Stade, Frederick Lowe, Ian Herbert, Janet Baker, John Constable, K621, K621 (Part I), La clemenza di Tito, Lucia Popp, Mozart at 35, Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Prague (September 4 1791), Publio, Robert Lloyd, Robin Stapleton, Servilia, Sesto, Sir Colin Davis, Stuart Burrows, Tito Vespaisano, Vitellia, Yvonne Minton

Late Italian OperasToday’s opera is La clemenza di Tio, K621, written by Mozart when he was 35, just a couple of months before his death.

The Overture is compelling. It sets the stage nicely.

But what follows doesn’t match the standard set in the Overture.

This is a typical opera. Nothing fancy. Nothing different from nearly every other opera I’ve heard.

I guess they can’t all be Cosi fan tutte, can they?

Here’s a YouTube clip from a production of La clemenza di Tito. It proves my point: Operas were meant to be seen, and not just heard. Even an opera as reportedly under-appreciated as La clemenza is transformed by seeing it performed.

Well, almost.

Here’s what it says [

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Of Fridays and Finales (Box 15, Late Italian Operas)

May 21st, 2010 · Box 15: Late Italian Operas, Cosi fan tutte, Cosi fan tutte (Part III), K588, K588 (Part III), Mozart at 33, Mozart at 34, Nicolai Gedda, Vienna (January 1790)

Late Italian OperasI can’t add anything to what I wrote in previous installments.

Well, other than this: After hearing him and watching the YouTube clip, I immediately jumped on the Amazon site and bought two collections of Nicolai Gedda’s music. He may be my all-time favorite tenor. And if take away nothing else from listening to Mozart’s music, discovering Gedda makes six months of my life worth it.

Today’s selection is the third of three CDs that comprises Cosi fan tutte. See my previous posts for background on this surprisingly good opera.

From yesterday.

From the day before.

Here is what I listened to today, complete with [Read more →]

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Of Nicolai Gedda. Period. (Box 15, Late Italian Operas)

May 20th, 2010 · Box 15: Late Italian Operas, Cosi fan tutte, Cosi fan tutte (Part II), K588, K588 (Part II), Love Duet, Montserrat Caballe, Mozart at 33, Mozart at 34, Nicolai Gedda, Pilar Lorengar, Vienna (January 1790)

Late Italian OperasI could write a bunch of self-serving, fancy-schmancy words to kick off today’s blog. But all I need to write are two: Nicolai. Gedda.

Remember those old Maxell ads with the guy sitting in the arm chair, being blown away listening to his stereo, which presumably is playing Maxell recordings?

That’s the way I feel when I listen to tenor Nicolai Gedda.

I don’t have much to add to my assessment of Cosi fan tutte. For background information, see yesterday’s post.

I will say, again, that I like Cosi fan tutte more than any other Mozart opera in his Late Italian Opera output. So far, anyway. I know there’s something coming up I’ll really dig. But, to date, Cosi is my favorite.

The last track on this CD (“Per pietà, ben mio, perdona” ), performed by Montserrat Caballé is a show stopper.

But it’s Nicolai Gedda on Track 14 (“Ah, lo veggio”) who blew me away the most. What an amazing voice! Powerful and crystal clear, with a range that astounds. It’s no wonder his entry on Wikipedia says this about him:

The Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda (born July 11, 1925) is a famous opera singer and recitalist. Having made some two hundred recordings, Gedda is said to be the most widely recorded tenor in history. Gedda’s singing is best known for his beauty of tone, vocal control, and musical perception.

Check this out. If you want your jaw to drop, watch the Love Duet from Madame Butterfly performed by Gedda and Pilar Lorengar. The sound quality isn’t pristine. It’s a very old recording. But, oh my god. Talk about goosebumps!

Here is what I listened to today, complete with the best guesses of scholars regarding where and when each composition was penned. This information was pieced together from The Compactothèque book + CD, which is an essential purchase if you [Read more →]

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