> Georg Friedrich Haendel - Italian Cantatas [KM]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Italian Cantatas
Il delirio amoroso "Da quel giorno fatale" HWV 99
La Lucrezia "O Numi eterni", Cantata HWV 145
Il consiglio "Tra le fiamme", Cantata HWV 170
Magdalena Kozená, mezzo-soprano
Les Musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski
Rec: 12/1999 - Paris, Maison de la Radio, Studio 104
ARCHIV 469 065-2 [67.37]


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The rising star, Magdalena Kozená, who has shone in recordings of Bach and other composers, gives one of the most impressive performances possible of three of Handelís Italian cantatas. These three small-scale works were probably composed for private performances for aristocrats in Rome, and the virtuoso requirements of some of the arias show that Handel had a very good singer at hand to perform them.

I have to admit that I am a fan of Kozená; her smooth, round, emotional voice fits this repertoire so well, and her energy bring such nuances to the music, that it seems that she was born for this type of work. She uses vibrato in the correct way for this music - as an ornament, not chirping away at each note, and modulates her voice to cover a wide dynamic range. In addition, this music itself is beautiful, especially the first cantata, Il delirio amaroso. The long aria Un pensiero voli in ciel is a fine example of Kozenáís musical and emotional range. This aria features some long, sustained notes that she carries off with grace, and some more complex passages that she negotiates with ease.

The entire disc is full of such graceful, emotional singing. Kozená seems to put much more into her singing than many soloists; when performing, one can see how physical her singing can be, and this comes through on disc as well. She truly believes what she sings, and the results are exquisite, especially because she has, so far, chosen music that is of such great quality.

Musically, Minkowski controls his orchestra perfectly to provide the ideal accompaniment for Kozenáís fine voice. He knows how to keep his instruments in the background when necessary, and in the foreground when called for.

But, okay, there is something I have to say about this disc, something that has nothing to do with the music. If you look at the cover, you will most likely put the disc down and go look at other CDs. The picture on the cover looks like Magdalena and Marc are standing in front of a wall awaiting a firing squad. I find it hard to believe that any label could choose to use a picture like that on an album cover. Minkowski never smiles, in any of the pictures I have seen of him, but Kozená can be quite attractive - just look at the photo on the back of the CD booklet.

This is a fine recording, that shows just how much of a wonderful voice Magdalena Kozená has. The music is beautiful, and some of the arias are among the finest that Handel ever wrote.

Kirk McElhearn

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