Ian Page and his Mozartists are systematically recording works by Mozart in their 250th anniversary year, and on this 2018 recording you get two genuine rarities from the year 1768, when Mozart was 12. Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50, was really Mozart's first opera (the still earlier Apollo et Hyacinthus is a sort of academic skit, in Latin), and it has been recorded from time to time. It is a German comic pastoral Singspiel, a parody of Rousseau (interesting in itself), and its compact little numbers, between spoken dialogue, have the characteristic Mozart simplicity and verve. The work receives a fine performance here from Page and his small cast of singers. But the real find here is the Grabmusik, K. 42, which is a little cantata about a dialogue between the Soul and an Angel at death. Reputedly Mozart wrote this on being locked in a room with only music paper by a skeptical court official who couldn't believe that a ten-year-old was capable of writing some of the music Mozart had already produced. The work was then performed at the Salzburg court, but performances since then have been sparse. Here we see the value of Page's series, for the work is an extraordinary artifact of Mozart's youth. Sample the bass aria "Felsen, spaltet eure Rachen," which is an over-the-top Italian opera aria, German though the language may be. Bass Darren Jeffery approaches the work with relish but does not overwhelm it, and it's a delight through and through. Mozart tinkered with both this work and Bastien und Bastienne for later performances, showing the high regard in which he held both pieces, but the original versions of both are performed here, and this is preferable for the mission at hand. The performance by Page and the Mozartists, with the associated Classical Opera Company, are vigorous and respect the works' small boundaries, regardless of Mozart's grand ambitions. An unusually satisfying album of Mozart juvenilia.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Grabmusik, K. 42/35a (original 1767 version)|
|Bastien und Bastienne, K. 50 (original 1768 version)|