Salieri: Prima La Musica E Poi Le Parole - Mozart:
Hemm, Manfred; Concentus Musicus Wien; Schäfer, Markus; Mei, Eva; Harnoncourt, Nikolaus; Schneyder, Werner; Petibon, Patricia; Widmer, Oliver; Ramos, Melba
Emperor Joseph II was partial to musical contests. In 1786 he decided to regale his visitors with a contest involving what were then the two most popular forms of vocal music for the stage: Italian opera and the German Singspiel. And so he commissioned two works from two composers, both of them outstanding in their respective fields, each work to involve the same basic arrangement. For the Italian opera the choice fell on Antonio Salieri, the director of music at the Vienna Court Opera, while Mozart was chosen to write the German Singspiel. The first performance took place at a magnificent gala at Schönbrunn 1786, when two stages were set up, one at each end of the Orangery. This musical contest produced no outright winner, Joseph II having been astute enough to offer his visitors only the crème de la crème of singers and composers. Salieri’s stature as an opera composer was abundantly demonstrated by Nikolaus Harnoncourt when he conducted Prima la musica at the Mozart Week Festival in Salzburg in 2002 – but at no point was Mozart’s own reputation impugned in consequence. The performance of both works is captured on this new release.