Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - Kuijken
Amati AMI 2301/3 (3 discs)
Classical - Opera
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Isolde Siebert (Königin der Nacht)
Suzy Le Blanc (Pamina)
Christoph Genz (Tamino)
Cornelius Hauptmann (Sarastro)
Stephan Genz (Papageno)
Marie Kuijken (Papagena)
Knaben des Tölzer Knabenchors
Chor und Orchester La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kuijken (conductor)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 24, 2014
Die Zauberflöte revisited.
The other day I was able to lay my hand on this set for ‘a song’. One wonders why. I do know now.
Let me begin by saying that the other reviewers are absolutely right about the orchestra. Indeed, hats off for Kuijken and his musicians. In short: A Small Band with Great Sound.
As for the singers: May be not all the very best available, but all the same first rate, with l’Acadienne Suzy LeBlanc as an excellent Pamina and Isolde Siebert as an accomplished ‘Queen of the Night’. I like the ‘light’ singing. For my taste Mozart is not so much for Drama, Diva’s and Heldentenors.
I don’t think that it is a DSD recording. The technical info makes no mention of it and if it does not say so it most probably isn’t. But for capturing a church performance (Basilica Notre Dame in Baune, France) it is not bad at all and it is evident that a fair amount of reverberance comes with the chosen venue.
My reason for writing these lines is twofold.
In the first place the extensive dialogue in German (as already mentioned in the discussion). It poses several problems: if you cut it short, the story loses its meaning; if you keep it all, than it becomes more of a stage play with musical accompaniment. For non-German speakers perhaps too difficult to digest. But that is not all. The delivery of the text is more declamatory than forming an integral part of an entertaining ‘musical’.
Kuijken explains in his liner notes (‘Eine Anmerkung über die Art der Deklamation in dieser Zauberflöte Produktion’; only as an addition to the German text!) that such was customary in Mozart’s time. But is that a sufficient reason to keep it that way. I think not.
A more serious concern, however, is the multi-channel mix. This is, in fact, pretty disastrous.
[I do note that both reviewers seemed to have listened in stereo only (no multi stars given) and may, therefore, have missed this aspect.]
I must assume that this has not been done by accident, but on purpose, to make it sound more spatial. Not so much coming from everywhere and nowhere, but, unfortunately, broken up in ‘front’ and ‘back’, whereby the orchestra, choir and soloists seem to be deliberately distributed all around. I find it disturbing if (for instance) the sound of the Magic Glockenspiel is in front of you and the singer (Papageno) behind right. Such incoherent handling of the musical information risks breaking up the overall sound stage; thus spoiling the theatrical experience.
I should, in all honesty, add that I am not a great fan of ‘complete surround’. I prefer sitting in the audience. I find Tacet’s approach gimmicky (Tchaikovsky’s piano trio with the players hopping from one corner of the listening room to another as my worst example) and 2L’s placing the orchestra around the microphones (Mozart violin concerto) just acceptable for ‘a special experience’.
But an opera…? Being somewhere ‘in the middle of the action’, having to turn around all the time to face this or that happening on stage?
To sum it all up: the singing is excellent in its own right, the music is compelling, the sound is as good as it gets in a church, but… the multi-channel mix is artificially ‘swimming’ and distractive, to say the least, and the stage play is ‘out of date’.
As always, tastes differ and some may like it this way, but I thought it best to warn Mozart opera aficionados of what to expect before buying this set, keeping in mind, though, that there is no alternative on SACD-MC.
(N.B. the same recording is available on Brilliant Classics in RBCD stereo)
Copyright © 2014 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net