Handel, Gluck, Purcell, Pergolesi, Martini, Caldara, Caccini, Paisiello & Durante

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Caccini,Caldara,Gluck,Handel,Martini,Paisiello & Durante,Pergolesi,Purcell
LABELS: Finlandia
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Arie Amorose
WORKS: Arias
PERFORMER: Monica Groop (mezzo-soprano); Ostrobothnian CO/Juha Kangas
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-29713-2
‘This disc is about love,’ proclaims the cover blurb. In fact, Monica Groop tends to be at her best when love is not the main issue. Her tangy, vibrant mezzo and forthright style are particularly apt for the ‘hunting’ aria from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, while her incisive attack and precise, energetic coloratura serve her well in the bravura showpieces from Alcina and Ariodante, and in Dejanira’s Mad Scene from Hercules – though you’ll have to turn to Janet Baker here (on a Philips recital) for a truly dramatic engagement with the text. In the lyrical arias, amorous, pathetic or tragic, Groop’s expressive limitations are more exposed. ‘Dido’s Lament’, for instance, taken very slowly, is impressively sung, with a regal depth to the tone. But with minimal dynamic variety the Queen’s grief sounds too externalised, while here and elsewhere Groop tends to swell into longer notes rather than sustain a pure legato. The exquisite ‘Verdi prati’ from Alcina is likewise unmagical, missing the nostalgic tenderness caught by Susan Graham on the recent Erato recording; and several of the familiar arie antiche (performed in sometimes doubtful-sounding modern orchestrations) lack lightness of tone and spirit – no hint of coquettishness, for instance, in ‘Se tu m’ami’. Accompaniments from the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra are stylish and spirited, though the strings sound a tad glassy in the resonant acoustic. The lavishly designed booklet – a Groop portrait with a vengeance – is larded with fashion shots that could have come straight out of Vogue. Richard Wigmore