> The Art of Anne Sofie von Otter [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Art of Anne Sofie von Otter
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen-Habanera, L’amour est un oiseau rebelled
Carmen-Gypsy Song, Les tringles des sisters tintaient
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Le Nozze di Figaro-Non so più
Le Nozze di Figaro-Voi che sapete
Don Giovanni-Batti, batti o bel Masetto
Cosi fan tutte-Smanie implacabili
Cosi fan tutte-Soave sia il vento
La Clemenza di Tito-Parto, ma tu ben mio
Mass in C Minor-Laudamus te
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Ariodante-Dopo notte, atra e funeste
Hercules-Begone, my fears, fly, hence away
Hercules-Cease, ruler of the day, to rise
Il pianto di Maria –Se d’un Dio fui fatta Madre
Messiah – O thou that Tellest
J S BACH (1685-1750)

Mass in B Minor – Qui sedes ad dextram Patris
St Matthew Passion – Buss und Reu
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

Oh Solitude
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Elijah – Oh rest in the Lord
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Ave Maria
An Silvia
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – Ging heut’ morgen über Feld
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les Contes d’Hoffmann-Barcarolle-belle Nuit
Les Contes d’Hoffmann-Une poupée aux yeux
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

La Damnation de Faust-Le Roi de Thule
La Damnation de Faust-D’amour l’ardente flamme
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Frauenliebe und Leben-Du Ring an meinem Finger
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Haugtussa-Ved Gjaetle-Bekken
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)

L’Anneau d’argent
Je Voudrais…
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)

Mariettas Lied
Come away, Death
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)

The Sprig of Thyme
Gunnar HAHN (b 1908)

Visa från Lappland
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)

One life to live
Benny ANDERSSON (b 1946) and Björn ULVAEUS (b 1945)

Like an Angel passing through my room
Elvis COSTELLO (b 1954)

For the stars
Franz Xavier GRUBER (1787-1863)

Stille Nacht
Mel TORME and Robert WELLS

The Christmas Song
Anne Sophie von Otter, soprano with various accompaniments
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 472 474-2 [2 CDs 75’45 and 76’58]

Ranging from her Messiah with Trevor Pinnock in 1988 to Hercules with Marc Minkowski, newly issued, this compilation gives us more than a decade’s worth of Anne Sophie von Otter’s consistently – and increasingly – expressive musicianship. It’s strong on linguistic and stylistic affinities – French, Italian, German, English, Latin, Scandinavian languages and Baroque, Classical, Romantic, opera, operetta, lieder, orchestral song, chanson, melodies, light contemporary pop and even Mel Torme’s The Christmas Song. The graph of von Otter’s musical engagement has risen strongly since her first LP in 1983; her voice has steadied, deepened and tonally grown stronger with an added range of colouration and inflection. Its increasing expressive agility has not come at the expense of a loss of its inherent beauty but has led instead to performances, especially in the Classical arena, of ever more subtle depth.

In a highlights collection such as this almost all the selected items reveal creditable qualities of tonal production and acumen. Her much-admired taste – sometimes, I feel, a critical pejorative - has always seemed to me to be entirely at the music’s service. Certainly as a snapshot of her decade’s development the set offers its own, admittedly fractured, rewards. Opening in sultry fashion, von Otter is not afraid to bleach and roughen her tone in Carmen even if, in truth, she’s not one of nature’s natural floosies. Her Voi che sapete though is excellent, incipiently sensual, and the metrical flexibility of her Handelian singing impressive, especially so the aria from Ariodante, Dopo notte. The impression of Handelian rightness is signally enhanced by the rapt simplicity of her singing of Se d’un Dio from Giunta l’ora fata. Lest one doubt it her Mendelssohn (Elijah) evinces a steady and immaculately controlled lower compass to a voice that soars with effortless freedom. She indulges her wit in Offenbach and a certain languid wistfulness in Korngold, is a mightily impressive Mahlerian and has a stab at Weill (not entirely convincingly). The Chaminade songs never quite engage as they should but the Gunnar Hahn does and the final songs are to put it mildly an eclectic potpourri of the chaps from Abba, Elvis Costello, the lugubrious Franz Xaver Gruber and Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ The Christmas Song. Which should scare the life out of someone at least.

A well chosen selection then of von Otter’s repertoire and a solid decade’s worth of distinction, exploration and achievement.

Jonathan Woolf

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