Magdalena Kožená performs selected choral works by Monteverdi

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Archiv
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: Zefiro torna, e di soavi accenti; Lamento della ninfa; Quel sguardo sdegnosetto; l’Incoronazione di Poppea – Disprezzata Regina; Addio, Roma!; Pur ti miro; Con che soavità; Damigella tutta bella; Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda; plus works by Uccellini, Merula and Marini
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozˇená (mezzo-soprano), Anna Prohaska (soprano), David Feldman (countertenor), Jakob Pilgram & Michael Feyfar (tenor), Luca Tittoto (bass); La Cetra Barockorchester Basel/Andrea Marcon
CATALOGUE NO: 479 4595

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Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená has long been immersed in the performance of Baroque music – indeed, her debut recording of Bach arias in 1997 launched her international career. Since then, she has graced the world’s most prestigious concert halls and opera houses, where her experience in later, larger-scale and Romantic repertoire has produced a more voluptuous voice and extrovert style. Such qualities are best suited to Monteverdi’s theatrical works, where high drama and heightened expressivity are the order of the day. In l’Incoronazione di Poppea (a collaborative opera for the Venetian stage), she animates the pliant recitational style to emotive effect, wringing both pathos and passion from the spurned empress Ottavia’s two solo laments (‘Disprezzata regina’ and ‘Addio, Roma!’), while her reading of the ravishing final duet ‘Pur ti miro’, with soprano Anna Prohaska, is surely one of the most meltingly sensuous on record. Compelling, too, is Kožená’s solo rendition of the tragic, Crusades love story of Tancred and Clorinda, a virtuosic tour de force in which she single-handedly tackles all three solo roles, yet still manages to highlight Monteverdi’s contrasted affetti (emotions and psychological states). Less convincing on this disc are the more intimate madrigals and Scherzi musicali, where her projection and expression seem over-blown given the music’s scale and idiom.

The instrumentalists of the Swiss ensemble La Cetra offer richly coloured and elaborately embroidered continuo realisations, fully in keeping with Kožená’s luxuriant style. They interlace the vocal works with foot-tapping, dance-inspired numbers by Monteverdi’s contemporaries – all of them joyously played.

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Kate BoltonPorciatti