The ‘coloured’ art of vocal ornament is what this disc is all about: trills, runs and stratospheric high notes ad lib. They are more associated with Italian or French featherweights than serious-minded Finns, perhaps, but Anu Komsi’s cosmopolitan experience and technical expertise show in the breadth and quality of her programme. And Sakari Oramo makes much of her accompaniments.
Glière’s vocalise, not unlike Rachmaninov’s, uses wordless line to convey exaltation; it needs to sound effortless, and does. The Mad Scene from Thomas’s Hamlet is in the canary-fancier tradition, inflating Shakespeare’s pathetic Ophelia into a barnstorming Paris Opera prima donna, but Komsi, with a decent trill, restores some credibility. Likewise Lakmé’s Bell Song, another old Lily Pons standard, sung with effective grace and delicacy and again very acceptable French. Alyabyev’s Nightingale builds vocal display on a folky Russian hopak, while Zorn’s scena, again wordless, shows Komsi coping adroitly with serial ornament. Only when the dramatic intrudes is she less effective, with an unmalevolent and misjudged Der Hölle Rache. And though Sibelius wrote Luonnotar for Finland’s first international coloratura, Aino Ackté, she had more dramatic bite; Komsi sounds mannered and, unforgiveably, stretches out the finale till it sags.
Michael Scott Rohan