OP0450. APOLLO ET HYACINTHUS (Mozart), recorded 1981, w.Hager Cond. Salzburg Ensemble; Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Arleen Auger, Edith Mathis, Cornelia Wulkopf & Hanna Schwarz. 2-Philips 422 526, Slipcase Edition with Elaborate 104pp Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028942252622
“This latest issue in the Salzburg early Mozart series offers the Latin school-opera that Mozart wrote when he was just over 11. It belongs to an extensive tradition that is unfamiliar to us because most of its products are trivial and anyway few of them survive. In Germany and Austria, the musical school-drama flourished from the late Middle Ages, fostered by such groups as the Benedictines, who were especially influential in the Salzburg educational institutions. APOLLO ET HYACINTHUS was designed for performance in the intervals of a five-act tragedy, CLEMENTINA CROESI, written by the same author as APOLLO, RUFINUS WIDL; the plan was thus similar to those that prevailed in many an English theatre or Italian opera house, with a light work serving as intermezzos to a more serious one. In this case, as in many others, the subject-matter of the two entertainments interlocked. The story of Apollo and Hyacinth - of Apollo's love for the beautiful young man and his jealous murder by Zephyr, who accuses Apollo himself - had to be modified as its homosexual overtones were unacceptable in Mozart's day (though of course did not trouble the ancient Greeks): here Apollo is betrothed to Melia, Hyacinth's sister, whom Zephyr also desires.
The opera (as we may as well call it) is quite brief. It is in a prologue and two 'choruses', each section having three lyrical numbers linked by recitative; and the numbers, composed for schoolchildren rather than professional singers (except that of Hyacinth and Melia's father, Oebalus), are rather shorter and simpler than those in Mozart's other early dramatic pieces. They remain astonishing as the products of an 11year-old, with their assured technique; but it would be wrong to expect to find in them much in the way of musical drama. Several however are striking and original: one is the D major aria that introduces Melia, with its brilliant, trumpet-like writing for the voice and its splendid momentum; another is the duet for her and Apollo, where he hotly denies her charge that he has killed her brother (the two sing in turn for the most part, but speak together as the discourse becomes more heated); and the happiest number of all is the other duet, for Melia and her father, an exquisitely scored movement (muted first violins, pizzicato seconds and basses, gently moving parts on divided violas) which Mozart later used in a symphony.
As with most of these Salzburg recordings, the level is high. Anthony Rolfe Johnson sings most gracefully as Oebalus. The two principal sopranos could hardly be improved upon - Arleen Auger in her usual clear, ringing voice in Melia's music, Edith Mathis true, bright and admirably poised as Hyacinth. The two contralto parts are both lowlying, and Cornelia Wulkopf and Hanna Schwarz alike show firm, even, accurate singing in their bottom octaves. Leopold Hager finds sensible tempos though lets the recitative move more deliberately than it ideally should. The orchestral playing is neat, the recording beyond reproach. The set is well worth trying; the music's lightness and charm and fluency, coupled with singing far more assured than anything Mozart can have envisaged, makes for very pleasant listening.”
- GRAMOPHONE, March, 1982 [reference to the LP set]