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.