Essential listening, I’d venture to suggest, even for those who already have the Philips Originals box set I reviewed here. Here we have the whole of Baker’s 1977 Beethoven and Schubert recital, of which three items appear on the Philips box, coupled to the Mozart items from her 1974 Mozart and Haydn recital, none of which do.
The prize of this CD is Dame Janet’s superb rendering of Sesto’s arias from La Clemenza di Tito. Not only is it a technical tour de force, the rapid triplet figures at the end of Parto, parto tossed off with breathtaking ease, but the range of expression is extraordinary and personal. I have never heard another singer differentiate so much between the repeated cries of Guardami!; in the first she pleads almost angrily, but in the second her tone changes completely, becoming meltingly beseeching, as if Sesto realises he has gone too far. Furthermore she has the ability to get to the emotional core of the music without ever disrupting its Classical style. Pure genius.
Elsewhere she is in enviable form in a programme that ranges wide, including rarities like Beethoven’s No, non turbati and arias from Schubert’s Lazarus and Alfonso und Estrella. Leppard’s accompaniments, whether conducting the English Chamber Orchestra or on the piano or harpsichord are discreet rather than revelatory, perhaps happy, with such a patrician artist, to let his soloist take the lead.
The recordings, originally made for Philips in quadrophonic sound, are here issued in SACD, though I was listening in simple stereo. They are wonderfully clear and lucid.
2 thoughts on “Dame Janet Baker sings Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert”
Universal should have included Sesto’s two arias in the Philips Originals box. Anyway the entire Pentatone disc is highly desirable and delectable. A truly great artist and musician.
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Indeed. When I bought the Philips Original box I couldn’t believe they weren’t there. It made no sense to me to include the arias from the complete sets of Clemenza and Cosi, which most Baker fans would probably have already, and then leave off those absolutelt stunning performances of Sesto’s arias. She recorded Parto, parto again in 1984 for an Erato Mozart recital, but it’s nowhere near as thrilling.
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