Julia Lezhneva and Il Giardino Armonico play Handel

'Lezhneva fails to capture the emotional complexity...This is a woman's aria, not a girl's'

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
WORKS: Arias and orchestral excerpts
PERFORMER: Julia Lezhneva (soprano); Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: 478 6766

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Soprano Julia Lezhneva’s iridescent top notes and easy coloratura propelled her to fame at the age of 20. Early dabblings with bel canto (a delicious disc of Rossini with Marc Minkowski) sent her back to Classical and Baroque cantatas, a natural fit for a voice with a facility for sunny showcase arias. In her second recital with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini there are several of these: ‘Disserratevi, o porte d’Averno’ (La Resurrezione) and ‘Come nembo che fugge col vento’ (Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno), both briskly phrased by Antonini, with sharp accents on the first beat of each bar.

But there is a wealth of nuance to be found between carefree flamboyance and the hushed purity that Lezhneva brings to Salve Regina, and this all-Handel programme reveals that gap in her artistry. While ‘Felicissima quest’ alma’ (Apollo e Dafne) has slinky charm, Lezhneva fails to capture the emotional complexity of ‘Pensieri, voi mi tormentate’ (Agrippina). This is a woman’s aria, not a girl’s.

For the rest, there are some sensational obbligato solos from violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky, who brings real imagination and character to ‘Per dar pregio all’amor mio’ (Rodrigo) and ‘Tu del ciel ministro eletto’ (Il trionfo).

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Anna Picard