After just two instalments in his projected seven-opera Mozart cycle, Rolando Villazón has taken a premature diversion a collection of obscure Mozart concert arias that he found in a Munich music shop. As he’s demonstrated already in Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni, Villazón is a persuasive Mozart advocate, but he needs all that skill and enthusiasm to make this grab-bag of juvenilia, rejects and odd-jobs hold together.
The opening of the aria Aura che intorno spiri must be one of the greatest opening phrases in all Mozart, but the sublimity is intermittent. Many arias hint at genius and then faff about in a stop-start demonstration of genius almost at work. The most intriguing are Con ossequio, con rispetto and La spoco deluso, where one could speculate that Rossini built his career out of Mozart’s reject bin. The earliest aria, Va, dal furor portata, is gob-smacking when judged by the standards of 9-year-old composers, but compared with the Mozart of 20 years later, it’s scarcely must-have.
Just how far Mozart progressed during the intervening period is demonstrated in the only German language inclusion, Musst ich auch durch taussend Drachen, sounding so much more mature and dramatic in intent, and with a momentum in the accompaniment that’s lacking elsewhere. So, an important CD in that this repertoire is barely known, but it’s unlikely to prove the case for unjust neglect.