The BBC Music Magazine award for Best Opera recording has been a justifiable victory for Currentzis and his forces for their recording of Don Giovanni. The fact that a mainstream classical music magazine decided to award such a fresh, challenging approach is an encouraging sign for the appreciation of alternative performances of the core repertoire. Of course, it’s very common for Mozart’s works to be influenced by historically informed performance (HIP) practice and many such recordings, like Gardiner’s, should not be overlooked. What Currentzis achieves, however, is something entirely different. What we have here is not a HIP recording per se, but a blend of historical performance practice with the more bold and romantic approach of older recordings. While the use of fortepiano as ornamentation underlines the score, the tempi fluctuations sculpt the pacing of this structurally difficult work.
Add to this the depth of the Russian orchestra, the great contribution of the vocalists and of course the creative liberties taken by Currentzis and applied to the score, and you have a unique recording, worthy of the BBC Music Magazine award.
As for Currentzis himself, he has been gaining momentum lately and not just by winning awards worldwide. Perhaps he could be described as a heroic conductor. His artistry so far seems to be pure and original and does not conform to the norms set by star conductors of our age. In fact, he is one of the very few living conductors whose recordings sound distinctively different from the established tradition — be it romantic or HIP. His approach sounds honest and does not aim to impress or shock the listener (as was the trend when the whole HIP movement first became fashionable). Trying to be historically informed while not forgetting how we, as 21st-century listeners, emotionally interpret the great works of art sounds like an unfathomable task. Currentzis so far seems to succeed.
Mozart, Don Giovanni
Teodor Currentzis (conductor) / Musicaeterna
Orchestra and Chorus of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre