Thomas Quasthoff & Mozart

Don Giovanni, K527 – Overture; Madamina, il catalogo è questo
Idomeneo, K366 – March
Così dunque tradisci … Aspri rimorsi atroci, K432
Thamos, König in Ägypten, K345 – Incidental Music (excerpt)
Symphony No.31 in D, K297 (Paris)
Per questa bella mano, K612
Serenade in D, K250 (Haffner) – VI: Andante
Mentre ti lascio, o figlia, K513

Thomas Quasthoff (bass-baritone)

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Gottfried von der Goltz (violin)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 11 March, 2005
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

This concert was one of those remarkable things: just about perfect. Even potential blemishes were turned into jewels. For example, a few bars into the encore Thomas Quasthoff stopped and asked to begin again. So, after begging the audience’s pardon with a huge grin (and adding, “you deserve better than that!”), he delivered a wonderful rendition of “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” from “Die Zauberflöte”. But what preceded was also pure magic.

The concert began with a colourful and dramatic account of the overture to “Don Giovanni” – vibrato-less and transparent string sound, fruity winds, characterful brass (those natural horns!) and crisp timpani giving a taste of the good things to come. Quasthoff then joined the orchestra for Leporello’s ‘Catalogue Aria’, making the most of the comic potential with some wonderfully expressive facial gestures and changes in tone colour – but without marring the sheer beauty of the voice, which remained focussed, rich and effortlessly projected. A lightly rendered March from “Idomeneo” provided a mini-overture to the next vocal piece, the moving concert recitative and aria “Così dunque tradisci…” in which King Serse’s treacherous friend Sebaste has in turn been betrayed by Princess Roxanne and laments his fate. Again, this was a highly characterised and flawlessly executed performance by both orchestra and singer.

The second half started with a fiery and accomplished ‘Paris’ symphony, the Freiburgers really making the most of the famous premier coup d’archer and expansive (for Mozart’s day) orchestration. The audience couldn’t contain its applause following the first movement and positively exploded after the final Allegro. So they weren’t just here for Quasthoff! A curiosity then followed: the aria “Per questa bella mano” for bass voice with obbligato double bass. Love Persson took his share of the limelight by negotiating the lightning figurations and generous double-stopping with stylish aplomb; but this was a true duet for two basses, Persson and Quasthoff being musically sensitive to each other. Definitely the highlight of the evening, despite its finishing with a movement from the ‘Haffner’ Serenade, and a truly powerful and deeply felt “Mentre ti lascio” (another concert aria) and, yes, that magical encore.

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