Symphonies - Released February 19, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Choc de Classica

Classical - Released October 15, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
This performance of Mozart's opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384, is led by the conductor and countertenor René Jacobs, an artist associated with the historical performance movement, and is accompanied by the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin, an ensemble of which the same is true. It is, however, anything but a historical performance; rather it is one featuring radical innovation. This is the last of a cycle of major Mozart operas by Jacobs, and it offers the fast tempi, tough, vigorous spirit, and dramatic insight that have generally characterized the others. The treatment of Mozart's semi-serious opera about the rescue of a woman held in the compound of a Turkish nobleman, however, is entirely novel. Die Entführung aus dem Serail is a Singspiel, a German-language opera in which the vocal numbers are interspersed with spoken dialogue, not recitatives. Jacobs has personally rewritten this dialogue into straightforward contemporary German, and if that weren't enough, accompanies it with fortepiano improvisations that comment on the action. This has a very curious effect akin to the texture of a silent film, and it's going to rub listeners in necessarily individual ways. Jacobs' aim is to get rid of the stop-start quality endemic to the Singspiel, and it must be said that whatever you think of the method, he accomplishes his goal. The best way to look at this performance is that if you take it on its own terms, it succeeds. Cutting the pauses between the dialogue sections and the arias down to a fraction of a second, Jacobs creates natural transitions between the dialogue and the set pieces. This quality is set against the spectacular vocal virtuosity of the music, and the effect is of a basic flow that from time to time explodes into technical fireworks like Konstanze's "Martern aller Arten" (CD one, track 22). Sample soprano Robin Johannsen here; to these ears, she's remarkable. In general, without performers who were as persuasive as actors as they were as singers, this interpretation would have been disastrous. But Jacobs shapes the whole thing into what he wants. It may still be too strange for you, but it's bold in the best way.

Full Operas - Released October 9, 2012 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Disque de la semaine France Musique - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio

Symphonic Music - Released March 11, 2011 | harmonia mundi

Renowned for his work in Baroque vocal music, René Jacobs is most frequently credited as a countertenor and as a choral director. He is somewhat less familiar as a conductor of Classical symphonic music, though he has increasingly delved into this repertoire in recordings with one of Europe's best early music groups, the Freiburger Barockorchester. This 2007 release from Harmonia Mundi features Jacobs and the orchestra in bright and finely detailed performances of two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's late symphonies, the Symphony No. 38 in D major, K. 504, "Prague," and the Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, "Jupiter." Going by the theory that the composer always intended his music to be transparent in texture, sharply defined in rhythm, brisk in tempo, and dramatically characterized, these readings are as authentic as a Mozartian could wish; the distinctive sonorities of the small-scaled orchestra are as polished and luminous as any buff of period practice could desire. Hearing these meticulous performances makes one wish for more Classical recordings from this conductor and ensemble, to have a more comprehensive representation of Mozart's symphonies, as well as to augment a single disc of Haydn's symphonies, which was released in 2004. Harmonia Mundi's audio quality is first-rate, and the extraordinarily wide dynamic range of this chamber orchestra is faithfully reproduced.

Full Operas - Released October 7, 2010 | harmonia mundi

Booklets Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica - Exceptional sound
With Die Zauberflöte, René Jacobs continues his exemplary traversal of Mozart operas, having already recorded the da Ponte operas, La Clemenza di Tito, and Idomeneo. Jacobs has not only a formidable knowledge of historically informed performance practice, but a bold inventiveness and originality, and in the comedies, a bubbling, earthy wit. He is a master of comic timing, and there are many moments in Die Zauberflöte when he gives a lift or a pause to a phrase that's generally treated as routine, and spotlights a significant gleam of mirth or insight that might easily have gone unnoticed. For any listener who has loved this opera but has become jaded from overexposure to run-of the-mill or cute performances, Jacobs' version is likely to re-kindle a passion for its many delights. In the program notes he writes that it is "an exciting challenge to make the dialogue so lively and varied that listeners are not tempted to skip from one musical number to the next," and his success easily outstrips expectations. He simply offers so many surprises (some that might be considered daring or insufficiently respectful of the score) that even listeners who know the opera forward and backward will be kept on their toes. In his notes, however, Jacobs makes a scrupulous and systematic account for each of the apparent eccentricities of his interpretation, citing the libretto itself or the performing practices of Mozart's day. An example of his non-traditional approach is his treatment of the very long spoken interaction with Tamino, Papageno, and the Three Ladies that follows "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja," in which he interjects sound effects and musical snippets and underscores some dialogue with improvisations on the fortepiano, in the manner of a melodram. The Three Ladies are so giddy that they sometimes can't help bursting into song, using music Mozart wrote but discarded before the premiere. Jacobs has a cast with the dramatic chops to pull off these hijinks with panache and naturalness so that they are genuinely funny without seeming silly. And they can sing! Few are international superstars; most are early in their careers, but they are attuned to the subtleties of singing Mozart and for the most part deliver outstanding performances. Daniel Behle's Tamino is pure and robustly heroic, and as Pamina, Marlis Petersen has a lovely lyrical innocence and plenty of strength. Daniel Schmutzhard and Sunhae Im as the secondary couple are absolutely secure vocally, and they bring a gleeful whimsicality to their roles. Anna-Kristiina Kaappola doesn't have as large a voice as is usually associated with the Queen of the Night, but it is consistent from its bottom to its stratospheric top, and her coloratura has a shimmering majesty. One gets the impression that her Queen is a physically small woman with a huge personality, a terrifying virago who sounds like she is spitting nails when she is angry. The smaller roles -- with Inga Kalna, Anna Grevelius, and Isabelle Druet as the Three Ladies, Kurt Azesberger as Monastatos, and Konstantin Wolff as the Speaker -- are all sung and acted beautifully. Marcos Fink doesn't quite have adequate vocal heft for the role, but his voice is warmly enveloping, and he makes an exceptionally humane and fatherly Sarastro; it's easy to see why the young lovers come to trust him. Jacobs' ensembles, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and RIAS Kammerchor, are entirely sensitive to the flexibility of his leadership and play and sing with spontaneous exuberance. The sound of Harmonia Mundi's beautifully produced album is wonderfully clean and lifelike, with excellent depth, clarity, and definition. Highly recommended.

Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 6, 2009 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Exceptional sound

Full Operas - Released May 22, 2009 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Choc de Classica - Exceptional sound

Oratorios (secular) - Released July 31, 2007 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio