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Juliette Pochin – Venezia
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) arr. Morgan Pochin Sposa son disprezzata [4.24] *
JS BACH (1685-1750) arr. Morgan Pochin Ave Maria [3.28] **
Tomasso ALBINONI (1671-1751) arr. Morgan Pochin Mille Fiate (Adagio) [3.50]
MORGAN POCHIN Lucezia [2.52]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) arr. Morgan Pochin Nulla in Mundo [3.36]
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739) arr. Morgan Pochin Pace non trovo [3.42] ***
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801) arr. Morgan Pochin A Capemonte [3.20]
Tomasso ALBINONI (1671-1751) arr. Morgan Pochin Salve Regina [3.55]
MORGAN POCHIN Ponte dei sospiri [3.13]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) arr. Morgan Pochin Four Seasons suite: La Primavera I [2.43]; La Primavera II [2.18]; L’estate [2.37]; L’autunno [2.13]; L’inferno I [3.06]; L’inferno II [2.13]
Juliette Pochin (mezzo)
* with Craig Ogden (guitar)
** with Julian Lloyd-Webber (cello) and Marat Bisengaliev (violin)
*** with Alun Darbyshire (oboe)
BTA West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra/Arcadians Choir/James Morgan
Orchestra recorded at Gateway Studios; vocals, choir and mixing at Morgan Pochin Studios, London. No recording dates given.
SONY 82876821222 [47.36]


Having heard Juliette Pochin in concert I know that she can sing more than averagely well. Without such prior experience anyone reading her booklet biography might assume much the same given that it lists collaborations with many well known orchestras and conductors.  Why mention this? Surely her singing on this disc would confirm the fact? Yes and no. She can hold a tune and produce tone with evenness, it’s true. But going by this disc alone one does not learn too much about either her vocal range or her ability to exploit dynamic extremes. Two factors are responsible for this: the recording and the arrangements of the music that are used.
 
The recording itself, also produced by Pochin, largely results from several separate sessions that have been mixed together to achieve the end result. Even moderately close listening reveals performances recorded in different acoustics that do not sit too comfortably with each other. Pochin for her part is closely microphoned, thus negating the need for much vocal projection or body behind the tone she produces. The West Kazakhstan Philharmonic play competently but without much individuality. The same could be said for the solo instrumentalists who ‘feature’ on this disc; but the generality of Lloyd-Webber’s might have been avoided somewhat with a recording that conveys nuances more readily. Piece after piece is played at a consistent mezzo-forte that after a few minutes becomes all but unbearable. Has nobody connected with this disc heard of dynamic gradation? What is so wrong with playing pianissimo occasionally, or fortissimo or anything else in between for that matter? Then there’s the tempi – so middle-of-the-road as to be frankly rather dull and quickly very boring.
 
Morgan Pochin, the husband and wife team of James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, are responsible for the musical arrangements. One can tell from them that the pair have had a hand in producing film soundtracks and whilst there is nothing wrong with this per se the stock-in-trade predictable syrupy flavour so often found there is out of place in the purely classical context. However this is not a pure classical context, this is crossover: Vivaldi, Bach, Albinoni, Handel, Marcello and Cimarosa are all present but take second place to Morgan Pochin reworkings of their music. Handel, for example, contributes a mere four bars from his cantata Lucrezia which becomes a complete aria following the Morgan Pochin treatment. And not only is the material by these composers negligible at times, but the relationship of some composers to Venice, the theme around which the disc is based, can be tenuous to say the least. Bach is included because he arranged Vivaldi’s works on occasion and Handel finds a place because his opera Agrippina was first performed in Venice. As far as I know he never ventured there personally.
 
The major novelty here is the Four Seasons suite. In the Morgan Pochin arrangement of Vivaldi’s evergreen quartet of concertos the sonnets attributed to Vivaldi that accompany each season are sung in the place of the violin line. Given that the sonnets are of varying lengths incomplete versions of each season are performed. It might be vocally challenging to do this but it adds little if anything to the music. Good excuse for a gimmick, however the result should not detain you long.
 
It’s an instantly forgettable disc. One thing is for sure though, since this is the first of five discs to come from Juliette Pochin in fulfilment of her £1 million contract we have not heard the last of her. It can only be hoped that future releases might pay more than occasional lip service to serious music and music-making, but I fear this hope may be a forlorn one.
 
Evan Dickerson
 

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