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Thursday, July 18, 2019


Peerless classic up for grabs on YouTube. (Review by William Charlton-Perkins)

During the late 1960’s, as a student at Natal University in Pietermaritzburg, I’d haunt the university library, taking out back-copy bundles of Gramophone magazine, avidly seeking out reviews of opera recordings acquired since hitting the capital city from my home town in the Midlands.

Having recently had the life-changing experience of hearing Elisabeth Schwarzkopf performing a programme of Lieder in the Durban City Hall, I pounced on a 1960 review by the veteran critic, Philip Hope-Wallace of EMI’s recording of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, with Carlo Maria Giulini conducting an all-star cast.

Notwithstanding the virile title role assumption of the young Viennese baritone, Eberhard Wächter as Mozart’s defiant philanderer, and supremely accomplished contributions from Joan Sutherland (Donna Anna), Luigi Alva (Don Ottavio), Giuseppe Taddei (Leporello) and the deeply sonorous bass, Gottlob Frick as The Commentadore, Hope-Wallace proclaimed “the entire venture is dominated by Madame Schwarzkopf’s full-breasted Donna Elvira.” Indeed so, and the German superstar soprano’s peerless realisation of what is possibly Mozart’s most compassionate and beloved portrayal of human vulnerability, has remained the yardstick against which successive generations of Elvira’s have been measured.

(Right: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf)

From her impassioned entrance aria, “Ah, chi mi dice mai’, to her heart-rending singing in the glorious Act 2 trio, ‘A taci, ingiusto core!’ – in which Elvira is cruelly mocked by the Don and his henchman – Schwarzkopf is unforgettable, as she is in her tempestuous grand scena, ‘In quali eccessi, o Numi… Mì tradi quell’alma ingrata’, and in all other key moments of her role.

Since the seismic take-over of EMI by Warner Classics a decade or more back, the latter industry giant has been re-releasing EMI’s back catalogue in digitally remastered editions. The entire Maria Callas recorded oeuvre has been the beneficiary of this huge venture, as have those of many other great names in EMI’s hallowed hall of fame, not least Schwarzkopf herself.

While die-hard collectors may wish to explore Giulini’s sonically enhanced Don Giovanni via the portals of Amazon and other online retail outlets, YouTube Music is an ever-present public resource for the world at large to experience this classic treasure, absolutely complete, and free of charge!

Don’t hesitate. Log onto - William Charlton-Perkins