Those that follow
the fortunes of record companies will know that the BMG subsidiary
label Arte Nova has suffered mixed fortunes. There have been
a few out and out successes (Zinman’s Zurich-based Beethoven,
Schumann and Richard Strauss cycles). Sadly, more often than
not, there has been one element or other that has let the side
down. Uneven distribution and availability has taken its toll,
whilst interesting repertoire has been let down by the quality
of execution (e.g. the Furtwängler symphony cycle). On occasions
where repertoire and artists were up to the task (Mandeal’s
Enescu and Brahms sets), the quality of the recordings worked
against the success of the end result in some critical quarters.
Of all Arte Nova
releases, the Voices series has been amongst the most interesting,
with young singers being given their first recording opportunities,
in repertoire that occasionally strayed beyond the standard.
Releases featuring Sergij Larin, Laura Brioli, Deon van der
Walt, Elena Zaremba, Anda-Louise Bogza and Elena Mosuc, amongst
others, are all worth hearing. More often than not though the
weak point has been the reliance on Slovak or Hungarian forces
as orchestral support, leading to average rather than distinguished
There are signs
however, with this current release that things could be improving.
Voulgaridou is a Greek-born soprano now resident in Munich,
so it is entirely appropriate that she be partnered here by
that city’s radio symphony orchestra. Though the voice is on
the light side it has conviction, and is used tellingly to capture
emotion, with Voulgaridou unafraid to go to her limits: pushing
the tone almost to the edge of a note in Donizetti, or employing
the merest thread of voice in Bellini.
What comes across
is not so much the fire-eating Greek temperament that you get
with say Agnes Baltsa or Maria Callas, both very different voices
from Voulgaridou’s, but the believability of her interpretations
and identification with the roles. Her already wide stage experience
plays into the recording, as she captures facets of each role.
There are no examples of her Mozart, Verdi, Offenbach, Richard
Strauss, Bernstein or other contemporary composers she has performed
live on stage. I hope that some of these may follow if Arte
Nova decides to take things beyond this initial recording, which
it should consider doing. Comparisons with other singers in
this repertoire would lead to endless lists of qualities. Were
this a complete recording of a single work this might be instructive,
but as things stand in giving an impression of a developing
artist Voulgaridou creates an immediately favourable impression.
Luisotti was not a name known to me, however he proves fully
idiomatic throughout, offering dynamic and sensitive readings.
With experience in a wide range of European and American centres,
his too is a name to look out for. His Covent Garden debut in
the 2007 season with Il Trovatore is an event to await
with interest. I hope that it will not be too long before Voulgaridou
makes it to the UK as well.
The Munich Radio
orchestra acquit themselves with spirited and keen playing,
thereby proving my point that it is worth record labels investing
in orchestras above the bargain basement level, even for bargain
price releases. With this release you get more than you pay
for on all fronts except documentation – biographies but no
texts or translations. Nevertheless recommended without hesitation.