OP0491. DER STEIN DER WEISEN (The Philosopher's Stone) (Mozart, Hennebert, Schack, Gerl & Schikaneder), recorded 1998, w. Martin Perlman Cond. Boston Baroque Ensemble; Paul Austin Kelly, Kurt Streit, Alan Ewing, Judith Lovat, Kevin Deas, Jane Giering De Haan & Sharon Baker. 3-Telarc 80508, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 089408050824
The re-discovery, two years ago, by the American musicologist David J. Buch of a lost opera partly composed by Mozart came as a sensation. Actually, THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE (1790) includes very little new music by Wolfgang Amadeus. More interesting, however, is his participation in this collective work along with the future crew of his own MAGIC FLUTE: singers (Benedikt Schak was to be the first Tamino, Franz Xaver Gerl the first Sarastro), conductor (Johann Henneberg), and of course the impresario and librettist of both operas, Emanuel Schikaneder. As conductor Martin Pearlman writes, It is fascinating to have a picture of him (Mozart) working in collaboration with a circle of composer friends to put alongside our usual image of the genius working in isolation. Despite such disparate origins, the music isn't bad at all. If the opera never reaches the heights of inspiration, it's always pleasant and entertaining in the typical, light-hearted Singspiel style later sublimated in THE MAGIC FLUTE. The name of Mozart comes only at the end of the Second Act, with a previously known duet and parts of the finale. These are fine moments, although you'd be hard-pressed to guess the identity of the composer just by listening to the music. This world premiere comes on period instruments, with a perfectly idiomatic cast. The voices are young and well trained, the Boston Baroque is ideally colored and disciplined, and Pearlman's direction is as vivacious as one could hope. Telarc's recording combines clarity and truthfulness. A worthwhile addition to the catalog.
--Luca Sabbatini, ClassicsToday.com
What this is not is a previously unknown opera by Mozart; what it is, is a sheer delight, a pastiche by several composers, including Mozart, performed in 1790 at the same theatre and by the same company that, in the following year, presented Mozart's DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE. In fact, Mozart's contribution to THE PHILOSPHER'S STONE is limited to about five minutes of music, but his spirit pervades. This premiere recording includes a bonus CD with a discussion of the piece as well as musical illustrations. Textually, almost every character in MAGIC FLUTE has a parallel in this work: Papageno and Papagena are here Lubano and Lubanara, for example, and musically they are eerily alike as well. The world is one of fairy tale and alchemy. It never plumbs the depths of Mozart's late works, but there's joyously good music to latch onto nonetheless. The entire cast is good, with special kudos going to Paul Austin Kelly, who sings tenor music that is difficult enough and chock full of coloratura to match the Queen of the Night's acrobatics. If the entire score is without extra-special brilliance, at least what we get is top-level, very-late-18th-century generic music - sort of like Salieri and company mixed with Mozart. And this definitive performance, on period instruments led by Martin Pearlman, will please everyone. Mozart, not quite; necessary, absolutely.