COMPOSERS: Boesset,Briceno,Cesti and Purcell,Dowland,Eccles,Lambert,Legrenzi,Manelli,Merula,Monteverdi,Purcell,Strozzi
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Love
WORKS: Arias by Monteverdi, Merula, Boësset, Briceno, Strozzi, Lambert, Purcell, Manelli, Legrenzi, Eccles, Dowland, Cesti and Purcell
PERFORMER: Simone Kermes (soprano); La Magnifica Comunità/Enrico Casazza
CATALOGUE NO: Sony Classical 88875111382
The latest of Simone Kermes’s solo-singer CDs is an intensely individual, heartfelt artistic statement. Every item was chosen by her; her own words fill the booklet introduction and annotations; the evidence of her close sympathy with the players of La Magnifica Comunità – the Italian period-instrument band which had previously collaborated on the soprano’s Lava and Dramma albums – is everywhere abundant.
Love unfolds as a themed collection of 17 vocal numbers from the period 1580-1700, in Kermes’s phrase a ‘Golden Age when culture flourished and poetry and music merged’ in more than one kind of harmony. As one might guess from the title, a kind of Frauenliebe und -leben music-drama is developed in sequence, leading to passionate fulfilment but also, finally, to madness and death. The variety of songs and operatic excerpts by a wide range of composers – Monteverdi, Strozzi, Cesti, Dowland and Purcell alongside the lesser-known Antoine Boësset, Luis de Briçeño and Francesco Manelli – in four languages adds to the singularity of the listening experience (not in Kermes’s native German but Italian, French, English and Spanish, all colourfully inflected).
The sum total, powerfully original and committed in imaginative endeavour and fulfilment, is an inward-looking artistic vision only fleetingly relieved by lighter moments. Best taken in small doses, I’d say, otherwise Kermes’s reliance on slow tempos, white-ish tone and dreamy half-voice quickly becomes enervating – but on its own terms undeniably fascinating.