Aureole etc.

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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German Romantic Arias
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Fidelio (1805/6, rev 1814) - Abscheulicher! . Komm, Hoffnung [8'04]. Ah! Perfido, Op. 65 (1796) [13'12].
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Der Freischütz (1821) - Wie nahte mir der Schlummer . Leise, leise, fromme Weise [8'59]; Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle [5'27].
Oberon (1826) - Ocean! Thou mighty monster [8'10].
Euryanthe (1823) - Schirmende Engelschar [2'35]; So bin ich nun verlassen [7'04].
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Infelice!, Op. 94 (1843) [8'39].
Karita Mattila (soprano)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Sir Colin Davis.
Rec in the Lukaskirche, Dresden, 9-16 June 2001. DDD
Texts and translations included
ERATO DISQUES 0927-42141-2 [62'15]

Since her triumph in the 1983 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has scaled the ladder to become a much sought-after singer. Live, she is magnificent; on record, hardly less so - as the present recording so amply demonstrates.

The arias chosen focus on the solo lament, described by Mike Ashman in his booklet notes as 'a moment of internal conflict caused by the drama of the libretto. It was invariably a vehicle for a display of both vocal and dramatic virtuosity on the part of the performer'.

Interestingly, Mattila places the concert aria Ah! perfido, Op. 65, after 'Abscheulicher!'. True, the excerpt from Fidelio is an impressive opener, but Ah perfido (1796) was composed as a study for the forthcoming opera. Despite a very expressive beginning to 'Abscheulicher!', one sometimes gets the impression that Mattila is luxuriating in the sound of her own voice, an effect which leaves the listener at a remove from the real emotions of the situation, an impression which recurs throughout the recital. Try Nilsson on Decca ‘The Singers’ 467 912-2 (see my review) for an example of true vocal greatness. Colin Davis's accompaniment for Mattila interestingly highlights the proto-Weber aspects of this music, and in doing so plays down its Beethovenian heart. There is no doubting, however, the prowess of the Dresden horns on this recording, whose rich sound suits the piece perfectly.

Mattila is very expressive in Ah! Perfido, and Davis follows her beautifully in the initial moments. Again, however, Mattila and Davis fail to get to the heart of the piece.

While Mendelssohn's 'Infelice!', Op. 94 is an attractive piece which simultaneously provides an impressive close to the recital, it does not plumb the depths that some of the other items on the disc explore. The Weber excerpts (from 'Der Freischütz', 'Oberon' and 'Euryanthe') really provide the focal point to the disc, and may even provide some revelations. Here Mattila is completely inside the music: try Agate's Scene and Aria, 'Wie nahte mir der Schlummer' to enjoy Mattila's seamless legato and expressive characterisation. Weber's writing is intrinsically dramatic and stageworthy, and it is to Mattila's credit that the Cavatina, 'Und ob die Wolke sie verhulle' is, if anything, even more impressive (a special mention should also go to the expressive solo cello here).

'Ocean! thou mighty monster' returns the programme to more familiar territory (Mattila chooses to perform this item in English). Heard as part of a concert, this would surely raise the roof. The Wagnerian side to this piece is clearly emphasised here. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the still, desolate and moving 'So bin ich nun verlassen' from 'Euryanthe'.

Recommended with much enthusiasm, therefore. Sometimes Davis could do (as so often) with an injection of fire into his conducting, it is true, but there remains plenty to enjoy from the Dresdeners, and Mattila is simply radiant.

Colin Clarke

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