ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Prayers: Ravel • Mozart • Fauré • Schubert • Donizetti • Gounod
PERFORMER: Sumi Jo (soprano), Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano); Cologne Philharmonic Choir, Cologne Gürzenich PO/James Conlon
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85772-2
‘Life is a prayer that love alone can fulfil.’ I’m not quite sure what that winsome little tag on the slipcase of this disc really means; nor, indeed, what is the relevance of the heavily caked gold-leaf on the lowered eyelids of the Korean coloratura soprano Sumi Jo. But what is quite certain is that the anthologising of 15 originally distinctive and often heartfelt musical invocations, from Caccini to Bernstein, actually makes for just another particularly dreary and musically vacuous chill-out compilation disc. The trite and desultory orchestral accompaniment to Mozart’s great Laudate Dominum hardly augurs well. And James Conlon and his Cologne musicians go on to accompany the crooning Sumi Jo in an orchestral arrangement of Caccini’s Ave Maria that transports the Baroque uneasily to Broadway. A squeamishly histrionic ‘Amazing Grace’ sits uncomfortably between this and Richard Strauss’s lovesong ‘Breit über mein Haupt’, just as a pallid ‘Pie Jesu’ (Fauré) is ill at ease in the company of a Schubert Singspiel. Sumi Jo’s bel canto is ‘bel’ enough: the voice does what it does best in ‘prayers’ from Rossini’s Siege of Corinth and Donizetti’s Mary Stuart. But the cringe factor returns all too soon, in Bernstein’s prayer that the White House may be kept from all danger, and in the high kitsch of the Strauss/Benatzky Casanova extract.