Immortal Beloved – Arias
Chen Reiss (soprano), Oliver Wass (harp); Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr
Onyx ONYX 4218 58:52 mins
The Israeli soprano Chen Reiss has made here an important and revelatory contribution to the celebrations surrounding the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. These rarely-performed items are not his art songs with German texts, nor his folk song arrangements, but genuine arias designed for concert use or composed for cantatas and incidental music and operas (sometimes by others).
Reiss’s manages coloratura passages with ease, her tone bright and clear, her voice firm throughout its considerable range and she is always wonderfully in tune. All these qualities are evident in ‘Fliesse wonne zähre’ (where she portrays the voice of an Angel glorifying the New Emperor Leopold II), in the martial music of ‘Die Trömmel gerühret’ (from Egmont), and in the acerbic and characterful aria ‘Ah, Perfido!’. Sometimes it is a little hard for her to let go of the lapidary edge to her voice, as in ‘Primo amore’, a piece she claims concerns Magdalena Willmann, although in the booklet Andrew Stewart says it evokes Beethoven’s first love, Jeanette d’Honrath. And in the humorous ‘Soll ein Schuh’ (written for a singspiel by Umlauf) her approach, although poised, needs something rather more knowing and arch.
The Academy of Ancient Music gives alert support even if, in ‘Ma tu tremi’, its depictions of thunder and lightning are perhaps a little muted. That said, this disc shines a very welcome light into a dark corner of Beethoven’s output.