Mozart: La clemenza di Tito - Jacobs

Mozart: La clemenza di Tito - Jacobs

Harmonia Mundi  HMC 801923/24 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Opera

Mozart: La clemenza di Tito

Mark Padmore
Alexandrina Pendatchanska
Bernarda Fink
Marie-Claude Chappuis
Sunhae Im
Sergio Foresti
RIAS Kammerchor
Freiburger Barockorchester
René Jacobs (conductor)

A new lease of life for Mozartean opera seria.

Too much ink has been spilt on this Clemenza di Tito supposedly composed in 18 days and which, so it is said, was conspicuously out of step with the times in 1791 . . . The interpretation offered here by René Jacobs is nothing short of revolutionary. Not only does it rehabilitate the original score in its entirety, notably the recitatives: it also restores the powerfully classical inspiration so essential to opera seria. In the final years of the Enlightenment, this was still the favoured genre of the educated man, and it is sheer delight to hear the language of Metastasio beginning to sing once more. As if magic, La clemenza suddenly springs to new and exciting life . . .

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Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - April 22, 2006

René Jacobs and Harmonia Mundi have done it again! A superb follow up to their wonderful set of Figaro (Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro - Jacobs) comes here with absolutely delightful singing and playing with real zest, making yet another superb Mozartian celebration present to us all.

When I was immersing myself in Mozart for the first time (around the 1991 celebrations), I lapped up The Magic Flute (which was written at the same time as Tito), Cosi, Figaro & DG with eagerness but I couldn't see past the numerous recitatives into submitting and loving this great music. The mark of this recording is that these same recitatives that used to put me off this opera are now melded into a convincing part of the unfolding drama. I only wish that I'd heard performances like this much earlier in my life. Interestingly, René Jacobs provides a stimulating and robust refutation of all the "myths" that I suffered from as a younger listener. I have to say though, that a large part of the "remedy" is the conviction that Jacobs inspires from all - in lesser hands, the larger number of recitatives would still grate IMHO.

All of the instrumentalists and singers as first rate, as I have come to expect from Jacobs. Inspired casting and great musicianship are displayed throughout. Throughout, there is a pleasing sense of forward momentum without any feeling of rushing the musical argument. Where employed, the ornamentation is subtle and beautiful (even though the "raw material" is not quite as great as for Figaro). The sound is remarkably well balanced with a great deal of detail coming through but not at the expense of a dry or close recording.

A note on the MCH presentation: this is largely "naturally" presented, with the orchestra and singers in front. There are a few notable departures, such as the Act I marching music where the "military" march in from behind before the main body of the orchestra takes over (this is reversed upon their exit). Other times when a voice is "behind" or "to the side" of the listener, this is reserved (some may consider appropriately) for the times when the character concerned is hiding (similar treatment to the Figaro). There only a couple of instances of this occurring so I would urge even doubters not to let this stop them from purchasing a first-class recording of La Clemenza di Tito. Naturally, this effect cannot be applied in the stereo layer. Recommended very highly indeed.


Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and


Sonics (Stereo):

Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (1)

Comment by threerandot - July 7, 2016 (1 of 1)

Review by threerandot April 9, 2008
Performance: 4 1/2
Sonics: 4 1/2

René Jacobs proves a convincing and passionate leader in this exceptional recording of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito on Harmonia Mundi with The Freiburger Barockorchester.

I had never heard this opera before purchasing it. Such is my confidence in the music of Mozart. After all, Mozart wanted to write opera more than any other kind of music. This opera has been criticized over the decades for what is seen as its excessive use of recitatives. In Jacobs' hands, these recitatives never slow down the action, but keep things moving forward nicely. These are really beautifully performed recitatives.

As for the cast, this recording features an impressive group of singers, all of which, I am embarassed to admit, I have never heard of before hearing this recording. Mark Padmore has a beutiful tenor voice. Listen to him sing the "Del piu sublime soglio" in Scene 4, Act 1. Or listen to the duet between Marie-Claude Chappuis and Sunhae Im, "Ah perdona il primo affetto". Sublime singing!

I have to admit that this set is very handsomely packaged. This is my first Harmonia Mundi purchase and I am impressed. In the heavy cardboard box you get a 200 page booklet with the libretto, photographs and notes by the conductor. Jacobs has written an article included, "Seven misconceptions about La clemenza di Tito". Jacobs makes many important points about the opera, including the myths surrounding the origins of the opera, as well as the idea of cutting what have been traditionally seen as "too many recitatives". Jacobs not only makes important points about this in the article, but proves that cutting these recitatives is unnecessary by just listening to the recording itself.

The Freiburger Barockorchester are an exceptionally talented body of musicians on original instruments and provide stirring accompaniment to the lush voices in this recording. I paticularly appreciate the beauty of the brass and winds throughout.

The sound is open and warm and has a nice depth. There is also a pleasing amount of air around the sound. The engineers have also added some panning effects here and there to highlight the action at key moments for dramatic effect.

I think it will be hard to find a better recording than this one of Tito for quite some time. Jacobs has really thrown himself into reasearching this work and it shows. Although I do not play this often, when I do, it is a real treat and all lovers of Mozart Operas will want to add this to their collection.

(This review refers to the Multi-channel portion of this disc)