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Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, January 2011

This new recording from Denmark is a most worthy competitor, possibly the best. While the cast is unknown outside of Scandinavia, their singing brings pleasure. They sound like a fresh, young lot, enthusiastic, committed to Mozart and beautiful singing. Fischer gives a crisp, authoritative performance.

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David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2010

Mozart was only fourteen when he composed this long dramatic opera based on the historic story of Mitridate, King of Pontus, who reigned in the last century before Christ. It was on the misleading information that he had been killed in battle that his intended wife fell in love with his son, the plot becoming increasingly complex when Mitridate returns. As today we don’t have a large queue of men looking to become castratos, female voices take both the young men and young women, with the result that it is almost completely given to women’s voices, and without seeing stage costumes to sort out gender, it is all very confusing. The quality of the score has drawn a very differing responses from musical commentators, and it is certainly a rarity on stage. Obviously wanting to please both audience and performers, Mozart had composed to existing convention, arias tending to be long and offering plenty of vocal virtuosity. After the overture, the orchestra is often providing nothing more than a routine backdrop, though Mozart seemed to become ever more daring as the work progressed. As the son, Sifare, at the centre of the story, Maria Fontosh provides all the vocal thrills in the flowing coloratura, while the outstanding dramatic soprano, Henriette Bonde-Hasen, takes the part of Aspasia, who starts out betrothed to Mitridate, is courted by his son, Farnace, and ends up as the lover of his other son, Sifare. At times Mozart requires a lot from his Mitridate, and Mathias Zachariassen does show the strain. Kristina Hammerstrom is the splendid Farnace, and Lisa Larsson’s sweet and lightweight voice is ideal for Ismene, the young girl Mitridate brings back for his son’s bride. Masterminding this wonderfully paced account, Adam Fischer draws very supportive playing from the Danish Radio Sinfonietta, the engineering as outstanding in both its natural and unforced quality.

Boyd Pomeroy
Fanfare, July 2010

Mitridate is the first of Mozart’s four opere serie, written to a commission from the Milan opera house in the course of Wolfgang’s Italian travels with Leopold in 1770. Despite his complete lack of experience in the genre and the pressure of working with unfamiliar singers to a stringent deadline, the result displays not just a seemingly second-nature absorption of its wide range of complex idioms and conventions, but goes far beyond that in personalizing them to his own compositional voice—an impressive achievement by any standards; for a 14-year-old boy, almost defying comprehension. Although we could hardly expect the psychological subtleties of his later masterpieces in the genre, Idomemeo and La Clemenza di Tito, Mitridate offers its own musical feast in vocal virtuosity, orchestration, harmony, chromaticism, minor-mode expressive extremes, and a vividly original dramatic response when the opportunity arises (e.g., in Aspasia’s poison scene in act III)…Adam Fischer’s conducting style is familiar from his Haydn and Mozart symphony recordings: a modern chamber orchestra playing in an aggressively period style. The senza vibrato strings can take on an acidic edge, and there is some self-conscious underplaying at quieter dynamics. At the other extreme there’s some bumptious rhythmic rough-housing and no shortage of Fischer’s trademark dynamic manipulations, enlivening or fussy depending on your point of view. While such a liberally “hands-on” interpretive approach is often employed in the service of keen dramatic pointing, it is sometimes in danger of crossing the line into mannerism. Trumpets and timpani have been added in the appropriate numbers, and long expanses of recitative have been judiciously pruned. There is no chorus called for in the score; Fischer’s use of one in the last number only (a conventional ensemble for the solo principals) is superfluous but harmless.

The cast is a strong one, the four principal women’s voices well differentiated, as they need to be: Henriette Bonde-Hansen (Aspasia) soft, warm, and flexible; Maria Fontosh (Sifare) gleaming, hard-edged, a little strained on top, with coloratura less than ideally precise; Kristina Hammarström (Farnace) rich and powerful; Lisa Larsson (Ismene) a small voice, with outstanding rapid passagework. The reprises of da capo arias are idiomatically embellished…Where the new set comes into its own is in Mathias Zachariassen’s superb performance in the title role, with a highly individual timbre that manages to suggest the character’s blend of vanity and vulnerability…In sum, Fischer’s musically distinctive, well-recorded set is a fine addition to the work’s discography, on its own terms highly enjoyable, and I’m glad to have it on my shelf.

David Vickers
Gramophone, June 2010

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