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La Passione (Christina Landshamer)

Christina Landshamer (soprano); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

La Passione
Beethoven: Ah! Perfido, Op. 65; No, non turbati, WoO 92a; Haydn: Overture in D; Berenice, che fai?; Symphony No. 49 in F minor, ‘La Passione’; Mozart: Non temer, amato bene, K490;
Christina Landshamer (soprano); Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck
Pentatone PTC 5186 987   71:53 mins

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This programme explores an intriguing assortment of Italian secular cantatas by three very different, non-Italian composers. Haydn’s Scena di Berenice was written for his honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1795, while his ‘Solo e pensoso’ was premiered three years later in Vienna. Mozart’s ‘Non temer, amato bene’ was part of a revision process for a private concert performance of his opera Idomeneo in Vienna in 1786. The most striking music here is ‘No, non turbati’, composed by Beethoven in 1802 following on-off lessons in the Italian cantata style with Salieri, and instinctively looking to break free of the conformist nature of the genre – a quest begun earlier in the ‘Ah! Perfido’ concert aria of 1796.

Christina Landshamer’s delivery of this material is consistently beautiful, technically top-class, and pitched with laser-like accuracy. What this level of excellence doesn’t quite solve is the conundrum of how to bring variety of mood and colour to the music’s standardised territory of turbulent romantic emotion; allowing for the stylised context, should the Beethoven numbers sound quite as similar to the Haydn or Mozart ones as they do here?

The nonetheless superb quality of Landshamer’s singing is matched at every point by the accompaniments, whose range of period-instrument colours is rich, full and captured in outstanding recorded sound. This is especially so in the two orchestral works, Haydn’s D major ‘Overture’ (published as such at the time, but in reality the finale of an otherwise lost symphony) and the impressively dark-toned F minor Symphony La Passione.

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Malcolm Hayes