Notes and Editorial Reviews
LADIES SING BAROQUE
Sandrine Piau, Gemma Bertagnolli, Rosana Bertini, Lucy Crowe, Deborah York, Veronia Cangemi, Ana Caterina Antonacci, Roberta Invernizzi, Patricia Petibon, Karina Gauvin, Julia Lezhneva (sop); Sara Mingardo, Nathalie Stutzmann, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Sonia Prina (alt); Magdalena Kožena, Angela Kazimiercszuk (ms)
NAÏVE 5294 (2 CDs: 116:14)
class="ARIAL12bi">Mottetto in furore iustissimae. Zeffiretti che sussurrate. Juditha triumphans. La verità in cimento. Orlando furioso. Stabat Mater. L’Olimpiade. Orlando finto pazzo. Ottone in villa.
Lamento della Ninfa.
Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day. Il trionfo del tempo. Radamisto. Giulio Cesare. Theodora.
St. Matthew Passion.
Mass in b.
Lamento: Lagrime mie, a che vi trattenete. Arietta, “Miei pensieri.”
Bid the Virtues
This is the sort of album that most critics (myself included) normally hate to review: the budget-package compilation album, highlighting singers from a label’s complete catalog. Usually, such albums are full of dazzlers, one after another, that wear on one’s nerves, and if the singers have similar timbres they all sound alike after awhile. This is one reason I was advised not to review this album unless I was favorably impressed.
Well, I am
favorably impressed, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, the music selected includes quite a few highly original and interesting pieces of music (with a few dazzlers mixed in for fun). And second, many of these singers have very different, contrasting timbres and, yes, even styles (as do some of the conductors). Take the first CD, for instance. It starts out with one of the most moving of all Baroque works, the duet from Pergolesi’s
sung with appropriate gravity—but not bathos—by Bertagnolli and Mingardo. Next up is a dazzler sung by Piau, yet one notices that the soprano does not push the voice to the limits, making it hard, monotonous, or uninteresting. Following this is an even more interesting excerpt from Monteverdi’s
Lamento della Ninfa,
sung with exceptional alacrity by Bertini with a most interesting chorus. Lucy Crowe, who sings Handel’s “Soft complaining Flute,” has a gorgeous voice but absolutely terrible diction; to quote Gwen Catley, “You can’t hear the words, neither their beginnings nor their ends.” (Much later in the recital, it is ironic that French-born Patricia Petibon, singing Purcell’s “Bid the Virtues,” has very clear English diction.) Following that we have Vivaldi’s superb echo duet “Zeffiretti che sussurrate,” sung to perfection by Piau with the faint echo voice provided by Ann Hallenberg.
Kožena, whose DG recital years ago I found monotonous, gives an interesting, introspective reading of the aria from
York reveals a soprano voice of a different color in the first aria from Handel’s
Il trionfo del tempo,
while Mingardo caresses the line of the second. Kazimiercszuk, who has a bright, interesting mezzo voice, gives an appropriately serious reading of “Erbarme dich,” accompanied by Christoph Spering. Piau and Mingardo then team up for a richly sung and sensitive rendition of “Vive in te” from Handel’s
and the first disc then ends with the always-interesting Stutzmann, whose low range almost sounds masculine, accompanied by Spinosi, in a dazzler from Vivaldi’s
La verità in cimento.
The second CD is, in some ways, even more interesting, starting with Piau performing the famous “Se pieta” from Handel’s
and continuing with some of the finest music by Handel (
arias), Porpora (an aria from
), possibly the most creative aria (“Nel profundo”) from
and two pieces by Strozzi that are extremely interesting. And again, we have a variety of fascinating voices, including the haunting, ethereal tones of soprano Cangemi and the bright, buzzsaw-cut and dazzling technique of Julia Lezhneva. Also among the rarities is the aria from Vivaldi’s
featuring the unusually vibrant voice of Lemieux, but that is the one selection I already have on the complete recording (conducted by Spinosi). The album ends, appropriately, with Stutzmann singing the Agnus Dei from Bach’s Mass in B Minor, conducted by Minkowski.
Now, of course, if you own the various complete recordings or vocal recitals from which these excerpts are drawn, you won’t be much interested in this set, but if you don’t I highly recommend it as a fine way to sample the Naïve catalog without ever being bored or inundated with repetitive, uninteresting music. And, in passing, I really need to commend Naïve for the packaging and presentation, even though I would have appreciated texts for some of the offbeat Vivaldi and Strozzi pieces (you can find the Italian text only of “Lagrime mie” on Wikipedia). The cover shows a slightly out-of-focus photo of the lower half of a woman’s face, with red lipstick and bearing the legend
Ladies Sing Baroque,
but as soon as you open the booklet there is a black-and-white photo of Piau and Mingardo at work in the studio. Neither is wearing much makeup, they’re in black rehearsal dresses, and there is a look of concentration on their faces. That, for me, is the best advertising for this album, because it presents them as serious artists, not as eye candy. Good for you, Naïve!
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Stabat Mater: Stabat Mater dolorosa by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Gemma Bertagnolli (Soprano),
Sara Mingardo (Alto)
Written: 1736; Pozzuoli, Italy
Bid the virtues by Henry Purcell
Patricia Petibon (Soprano)
Written: 17th Century; England
Ottone in Villa, RV 729: Gelosia, tu gia rendi l'alma mia by Antonio Vivaldi
Julia Lezhneva (Soprano)
Il Giardino Armonico
Written: 1713; Italy
Cantate, ariette e duetti, Op. 2: Il Lamento by Barbara Strozzi
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Soprano)
Modo Antiquo Ensemble
Written: by 1651; Venice, Italy
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Agnus Dei by Johann Sebastian Bach
Nathalie Stutzmann (Alto)
Les Musiciens du Louvre
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany
Ode for St Cecilia's Day, HWV 76: The soft complaining flute by George Frideric Handel
Lucy Crowe (Soprano)
Les Musiciens du Louvre
Polifemo: Alto Giove by Nicolo Porpora
Veronica Cangemi (Soprano)
Una Stella Ensemble
Written: by 1735; Italy
L'Orlando finto pazzo, RV 727: Anderò, Volerò, Griderò by Antonio Vivaldi
Sonia Prina (Alto)
Academia Montis Regalis
Written: 1714; Venice, Italy
Ariette a voce sola, Op. 6: Miei pensieri by Barbara Strozzi
Roberta Invernizzi (Soprano)
Written: by 1657; Italy
L'Olimpiade, RV 725: no 21, Gemo in un pianto e fremo by Antonio Vivaldi
Sara Mingardo (Alto)
Written: 1734; Venice, Italy
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