In times when major record companies seem to be crumbling and the expense of high art thought unduly extravagant, it is heartening that a new Mozart opera recording as fine as this manages to get made

In times when major record companies seem to be crumbling and the expense of high art thought unduly extravagant, it is heartening that a new Mozart opera recording as fine as this manages to get made. There are already two high-profile modern versions of Mozart's Idomeneo in the racks: the grand DG version from 1997 with James Levine leading a starry cast headed by Placido Domingo and Cecilia Bartoli; and a vivid period-instruments Archiv recording from '91 led by John Eliot Gardiner. While those boast considerable virtues, this new set—recorded following an acclaimed production at last year's Edinburgh Festival —competes on every level. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays modern instruments, yet Sir Charles Mackerras—one of our greatest living Mozartians—imparts wonderful period stylishness to the proceedings in matters of text, tempo, and texture. Led by tenor Ian Bostridge in the title role and mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson as Idamente, the singers are rich not only in voice but also in personality, without any weak link. Of course, Mozart's music is beyond sublime, and the entire performance (which includes the post-finale ballet music) moves with a fluid sense of drama.—BB