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Click on a CD cover to buy or stream from qobuz.com recital

Gramophone awards shortList 2015

Mozart ‘Desperate Heroines’ Don Giovanni – Non mi dir. La finta giardiniera – Crudeli, oh Dio! fermate…Ah dal pianto; Geme la tortorella. Idomeneo – Se il padre perdei. Lucio Silla – Frà i pensieri. Mitridate, re di Ponto – Pallid’ombre. Le nozze di Figaro – Deh vieni non tardar; L’ho perduta, me meschina. Il re pastore – L’amerò Sandrine Piau sop Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra / Ivor Bolton Naïve F V5366 (48’ • DDD)

‘Desperate heroines’ runs the rubric for what Sandrine Piau dubs ‘a Mozartian

“cartography” of the feminine condition’. Desperation is hardly the word for Susanna’s ‘Deh vieni’ and the shepherdking Aminta’s avowal of eternal love from Il re pastore. In the main, though, the recital lives up to its billing as a gallery of Mozartian women in extremis, whether recovering from traumatic loss (Ilia, Donna Anna) or facing death (Aspasia in Mitridate, Giunia in Lucio Silla). Sympathetically partnered by Ivor Bolton and his expert Salzburg players, Piau sings delightfully, with fresh, pellucid tone and keen dramatic understanding. All the more frustrating, then, that the disc runs for a niggardly 48 minutes and that Naïve fails to provide any context for the individual arias.

These gripes aside, Piau brings each of these women, amorous, vulnerable and/or tormented, to vivid life. Her tender shaping of ‘Non mi dir’ convinces you that Donna Anna does indeed love Don Ottavio; and her ease in coloratura enables the final section to flow at a nimble, graceful allegretto. Piau has successfully sung Donna Anna onstage, and she and Naïve have surely missed a trick by not including the imperious ‘Or sai chi l’onore’. Elsewhere she finds an extra sensuous warmth in her tone for Susanna’s aria, and a darker intensity for Aspasia’s Gluckian ombra scena and Sandrina’s ‘mad scene’ in La finta  giardiniera. Perhaps Piau’s Barbarina is a touch over-sophisticated – though her little aria, trailing away inconclusively, never works well in isolation. And while she has exactly the right voice for Ilia,

Piau makes the Trojan princess too much of a shrinking violet, fading wanly at the end of phrases. That said, many of the numbers here give unalloyed pleasure, not least Sandrina’s cooing ‘turtle dove’ aria and a lovingly phrased ‘L’amerò’ from Il re pastore that comes close to my ideal of Mozartian singing. Richard Wigmore (December 2014)

‘A French Baroque Diva’ ‘Arias for Marie Fel’ Fiocco Laudate pueri – Laudate pueri; A solis ortu; Alleluia Lacoste Philomèle – Ah! quand reviendront nos beaux jours? Lalande Exsurgat Deus, S71 – Regna terrae. Te Deum laudamus, S32 – Sinfonie; Tu rex gloriae; Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem. Cantate Domino, S72 – Viderunt omnes termini terrae Mondonville Daphnis et Alcimadure – Gasouillats auzeléts. Venite, exsultemus – Hodie si vocem; Venite adoremus Rameau Castor et Pollux – Un tendre intérêt vous appelle…Tristes apprêts. Platée – Amour, lance tes traits. Les surprises de l’Amour – La lyre enchantée Rousseau Salve regina Carolyn Sampson sop Ex Cathedra / Jeffrey Skidmore Hyperion F CDA68035 (73’ • DDD • T/t)

This is a brilliantly planned and executed, musically illustrated biography of Marie

Fel, one of the great 18th-century divas and muse of Rameau, admired by the Philosophes and adored by Paris audiences. So don’t be put off by the apparently recherché repertoire: this is a programme that pleases as much today as it did in hers, guided by Graham Sadler’s beautifully crafted booklet-notes.

Fel made her Opéra debut in a 1734 revival of Louis Lacoste’s Philomèle, singing the role of Venus. Carolyn Sampson, in superb form, is joined here by the choir of Ex Cathedra, who sing with precision and clarity of articulation in a lovely bright acoustic. As well as at the opera house, Fel also performed at the public concerts held in the Tuileries, where she was a soloist in Latin choral and orchestral music by Lalande, Mondonville, Rousseau and the Italian Fiocco, as well as in private performances of the theatre works by Mondonville and Rameau at Fontainebleau and Versailles included (mainly excerpts) on this disc.

The orchestra of Ex Cathedra, led by Margaret Faultless, provide stirring and sympathetic accompaniments for this varied succession of virtuoso vocal vehicles. Flautist Rachel Brown performs the exquisite solo and concertante lines in Mondonville’s Venite, adoremus and illuminates the sound of the lyre with her piccolo in Rameau’s divertissement from Les surprises de l’Amour. There is also sensitive concertante playing by the bassoonists in ‘Tristes apprêts’ and, with the addition of the oboist Gail Hennessy, in the movement from Lalande’s Cantate Domino.

Best of all, the longer we listen to Sampson’s voice, the more she seems to inhabit the aura of Fel, clearly a skilled and charismatic yet deeply affecting performer. Fel’s artistic flexibility is further demonstrated by the inclusion of the Fiocco (here performed with ornamentation Fel wrote into her part), Mondonville’s frothy pastorale – obliging Sampson to sing in Fel’s native Occitan – and Rousseau’s bang-up-to-date Salve regina, which obliges the soloist to blend her voice with the horns. Sampson’s performance is the more admirable for evoking the spirit of another singer.

Start to finish, Jeffrey Skidmore devotedly shapes and paces the programme to achieve a fittingly vivid portrait of Mlle Fel. Julie Anne Sadie (July 2014)

‘La bella più bella’ ‘Songs from Early Baroque Italy’ Caccini Dalla porta d’oriente; Dolcissimo sospiro; Torna, deh torna Carissimi Piangete, aure piangete Castaldi Tasteggio soave – Sonata prima B Ferrari Son ruinato, appassionato d’India Cruda Amarilli Kapsberger Ciaccona. Ninna nanna. Toccata sesta Merula Folle e ben che si crede Monteverdi Ecco di dolci raggi. Eri già tutta mia. Voglio di vita uscir Piccinini Aria di saravanda in varie partita. Toccata V G Romano Strana armonia d’amore Rossi La bella più bella. A qual dardo Strozzi L’Eraclito amoroso, ‘Udite amanti’. Mi fà rider la speranza Roberta Invernizzi sop gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2015 35