Karita Mattila: Helskinki Recital

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Vocal works by Duparc, Dvorák, Finnish Trad., Rachmaninov, Saariaho, Young; plus bonus CD featuring songs by Beethoven, Brahms, Kuula, Melartin, Schubert and Sibelius
PERFORMER: Karita Mattila (soprano), Martin Katz, Ilmo Ranta (piano) (Finnish National Opera, Helsinki, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: ODV 4004

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This recital, live from Finnish National Opera in 2006, is a thrilling crescendo of the performance art of one of the greatest living sopranos. You can now watch the fine detail of how Karita Mattila gives her physical all in recital as much as on the operatic stage.

There are moments in her opening Duparc songs when a little less close-focus on quivering mouth and larynx might be welcome. But, as the recital progresses, camera angles vary, and Mattila becomes more and more musically absorbed, then the balance between what we see and hear becomes powerfully fused, thanks to Aarno Cronvall’s shrewd direction for the screen.

The centrepiece on this disc is the premiere recording of Kaija Saariaho’s Quatre instants, written for Mattila in 2002 with minute and virtuoso understanding of her artistry – and, indeed, that of her sentient accompanist, Martin Katz. Each brief yet intense moment of female longing, nostalgia and remorse is entirely inhabited.

No less rivetingly embodied are Rachmaninov’s Slavic Romances, to which Mattila’s body and soul are powerfully attuned. She feasts on every language she takes on; and her fearless barefoot physicality in Dvoπák’s Gypsy Songs anticipates an encore in which she all but lap-dances.

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There’s a good sense of place in interior and exterior shots of the Finnish National Opera – and an entire bonus compilation CD of Lieder and Nordic song. In summary, then, this is a real treasure trove of delights! Hilary Finch