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C lasics

/ D eca

P aris

X avier


p h o t o g r a p h y

Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

contes d’Hoffman – ‘Elle a fui, la tourterelle’ Messager Madame Chrysanthème – ‘Le jour sous le soleil béni’ Lecocq Les Cent Vierges – ‘Je soupire et maudis le destin…O Paris, gai séjour’ Verdi La traviata – ‘E strano!…Follie!… Sempre libera’b

Sonya Yoncheva sop a Etienne Dupuis bar bCelso Albelo ten Orquestra dl la Comunitat Valenciana / Frédéric Chaslin Sony Classical F 88875017202 (56’ • DDD)

Aficionados of French (or France-based) opera will warm to ‘Paris, mon amour’ by the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva. Schooled in the refinements of Baroque opera by William Christie, she here broadens out into the Romantic repertoire, demonstrating that her rich, malleable timbre, control and sensibility open doors for her across a good range from Massenet to Offenbach, Puccini and Verdi to André Messager. As a sampler of her formidable gifts, this is a sure collector’s item. Geoffrey Norris

‘Scene!’ Beethoven Ah! perfido, Op 65 Haydn Miseri noi, misera patria, HobXXIVa/7. Scena di Berenice, HobXXIVa/10 Mendelssohn Infelice pensier… Ah, ritorna, età dell’oro, Op 94b Mozart Ch’io mi scordi di te, K505a. Misera dove son…Ah! non son’io che parlo, K369 Christiane Karg sop b Alina Pogostkina vn aMalcolm Martineau fp Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen Berlin Classics F 0300646BC (62’ • DDD)

That indefatigable one-man libretto factory Pietro Metastasio is the linking thread in these scenas of damsels in extremis, complemented in Ch’io mi scordi di te by the pseudo-Metastasio of Idomeneo librettist Gianbattista Varesco. With Beethoven’s Ah, perfido!, Christiane Karg’s expressive lyric soprano edges towards Leonore territory in a bid, as she puts it in the booklet interview, ‘to push boundaries, and to test my voice in other registers’. If you’ve heard Nilsson and Callas in this music, Karg might initially seem underpowered. But we are, after all, still in the 18th century. In close collusion with Jonathan Cohen’s crack period band, Karg lives each nuance of the abandoned heroine’s fluctuating emotions, from vengeful outrage to morbid pathos. She burns into the Italian consonants in the recitative, spins a tender legato in the aria’s slow opening section, then flares thrillingly into accusatory fury in the Allegro. Throughout, Karg holds vocal finesse and expressive intensity in near-ideal equipoise.

Haydn noted in his quaint English that the Italian diva Brigida Banti ‘song very scanty’ in the 1795 premiere of his Scena di Berenice. He would surely have had no qualms about Karg’s performance, whether in the gravely sculpted line of the Adagio aria or the passionate abandon of the F minor close, where she unfurls a surprisingly powerful chest register. In Miseri noi, Haydn’s music is too serenely dignified for such a grim text, but Karg brings it alive in a way I have never heard before, making the coloratura sound desperate, in the right sense, rather than merely brilliant.

In Mozart’s ravishing Ch’io mi scordi di te, Karg complements the delicate tones of Malcolm Martineau’s fortepiano in an unusually intimate performance, softening her naturally bright timbre and ornamenting with taste and discretion. The relative oddball here is the rare Mendelssohn scena in its original London version of 1834: an entertaining piece of near-pastiche, with a slow aria with violin obbligato – silkily expounded by Alina Pogostkina – that sounds like Mozart grown faintly decadent, and a seething Allegro that seems to cross Beethoven and Rossini. Karg spits contempt for her faithless lover in the opening recitative, then matches the violin in yearning eloquence before surging with controlled delirium through Mendelssohn’s long lines in the Allegro. Looking for trouble, I wanted a slightly closer balancing of the fortepiano in Ch’io mi scordi di te. But this is nit-picking. Singing with style, grace and fiery temperament, Karg brings each of these distraught heroines excitingly, individually alive, while the superb players of Arcangelo – not least the dulcet clarinets – are true dramatic partners rather than mere accompanists. Richard Wigmore

‘Arie napoletane’ Auletta Harpsichord Concerto in D Leo Demetrio – Dal suo gentil sembiante. Scipione nelle Spagne – Non fidi al mar che freme. Siface – No, non vedete mai Pergolesi L’olimpiade – L’infelice in questo stato Porpora Germanico in Germania – Qual turbine che scende. Polifemo – Quel vasto, quel fiero A Scarlatti Il Cambise – Tutto appoggio il mio disegno. Massimo Puppieno – Vago mio sole. Il prigioniero fortunato – Miei pensieri. Il Tigrane – Care pupille belle Vinci Eraclea – In questa mia tempesta Max Emanuel Cencic counterten

Il Pomo d’Oro / Maxim Emelyanychev hpd Decca F 478 8422DH (76’ • DDD • T/t)

Flamboyance and intelligence don’t always go hand in hand, though Max

Emanuel Cencic possesses both qualities in spades. The photographs accompanying his ‘Arie napoletane’ album show him reclining on a chaise longue, modelling – the only word one can use – the brocade jackets that have of late become his trademark platform wear. Behind the posing, however, lurks a recital of superb cogency that has claims to being his finest album to date.

He presents us with a survey of Neopolitan Baroque rarities woven into an emotionally coherent sequence that passes from triumph to resignation. He opens with Ulisse’s victory song from Porpora’s Polifemo, but its vaunting assertion and swirling coloratura soon give way to reiterated expressions of doubt, erotic conflict and sullen anger. There are arias of great beauty by Leonardo Leo (‘Del suo gentil sembiante’ from Demetrio is exquisite) and bravura showstoppers from Vinci’s Eraclea and Scarlatti’s Il Cambise. The ambiguities, sexual and harmonic, of Pergolesi’s ‘L’infelice in questo stato’ from L’olimpiade form the disc’s centrepiece, but the high point comes towards the end with ‘Qual turbine che scende’ from Porpora’s Germanico in Germania. A ‘rage’ aria complete with tempest imagery, its pulsing accompaniment links driving wind and rain with dark psychological obsessions. ‘Vago mio sole’ from Scarlatti’s Massimo Puppieno follows, terse and stark with continuo accompaniment, after which Cencic effectively bows out of his own recital, leaving Il Pomo d’Oro and their harpsichordist-conductor Maxim Emelyanychev to provide the bravura finale on their own with Domenico Auletta’s Harpsichord Concerto in D.

Cencic negotiates this complex emotional parabola wonderfully well. This is a great voice, dark in tone, beguiling in its liquidity and finely equalised. His coloratura flows with great ease, stunningly so in the aria from Eraclea, though it’s the slower numbers, where the long lines are effortlessly sustained and the emotions keenly felt, that make the disc so special. Il Pomo d’Oro are on fine form, too, and Emelyanychev, volatile, sensuous and keenly intense, is impressive. An exceptional recital, very highly recommended. Tim Ashley


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