Scene!

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Haydn,Mendelssohn,Mozart
LABELS: Berlin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Scene!
WORKS: Concert arias by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Mendelssohn
PERFORMER: Christiane Karg (soprano); Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen; Malcolm Martineau (piano), Alina Pogostkina (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 0300646BC

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The record label Berlin Classics, which in 2012 presented this team of German soprano, English conductor and British period band in Amoretti, a Gluck-Grétry-Mozart potpourri, has reassembled it for another greatly rewarding disc. Here we have a selection of concert arias no less imaginatively devised and stylishly delivered.

Scene!, its confusing title, is in fact the plural of scena, the Italian word for the type of Classical concert monodrama exampled here, of which Mozart wrote a gratifyingly large number. One unifying programme factor is that all the texts, including that for Mendelssohn’s 1834 Infelice!, were drawn from Metastasio’s opera seria librettos. Another is that each depicts a Classical heroine in situations of tragedy, emotional suffering or romantic turmoil.

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And a third is that the chosen words inspired each composer to his most generously lyrical vein of musical characterisation: this is a recording of continual riches, vocal and instrumental, displayed in each case with remarkable ingenuity of form. Karg, a splendidly accomplished artist, delivers every item with acute sensitivity to mood and verbal nuance. Her voice is lean in terms of tonal ‘flesh’; listeners used to the more substantial instruments of (say) Maria Callas, Régine Crespin and Janet Baker in Beethoven or Baker and Edda Moser in Mendelssohn may find her lightweight. But on its own terms, with Arcangelo in perfectly weighted period-instrument support, the disc gives uninterrupted pleasure. A word must be said for the expert obbligato soloists, the orchestra’s woodwind ones no less than the named fortepianist (Mozart) and violinist (Mendelssohn). Max Loppert