This is a CD transfer
of Anne Sofie von Otter’s first solo recording, made in 1983
in Stockholm. The transfer includes all the items from the LP
plus the Agnus Dei from Roman’s Swedish Mass,
which von Otter recorded complete that year. Evidently her recital
LP was never properly available in the UK, so this CD issue
might be the first time that the UK has had a chance to hear
this delightful record.
the running time is rather short; even with the additional item
it still runs at only 47 minutes. But it gives us the opportunity
to hear von Otter at the start of her amazing career.
voice is a little lighter than it is now and perhaps the flexibility
does not come as easily nowadays. Also her characterisation
and sheer musicality have developed in the twenty odd years
since this disc, but it is amazing how much of the mature singer
is available here. And it is lovely to have such confident art
and strong characterisation allied to her expressively flexible
opens with Dejanira’s big scene from Handel’s Hercules,
and manages to combine technical skill with powerful emotions
and in a pretty arresting manner. In an amazing tour de force,
she follows with the a bleakly expressive Piangero from
Handel’s Giulio Cesare, commandeering Cleopatra’s part
in a way that the older von Otter would perhaps find tricky,
giving us a vocal line which combines clarity with malleability.
In both English and Italian, her way with words is idiomatic
follows this with two charming songs from Monteverdi’s Scherzi
Musicali. Perhaps she is a little too much concerned with
beauty of vocal tone, rather than expressing the words, for
these to be ideal. And the lament from Arianna is profoundly
moving without being completely heart-wrenching.
comes the charming Agnus
Dei from Roman’s Swedish
Mass. Roman was the
first really important Swedish composer and the first to arrange
public concerts in Sweden. He was concerned to create music
using the Swedish language; Agnus Dei comes
from his mass setting of 1750 which sets the Swedish version
of the text.
accompaniment is delicately Mozartian, the results charming
and moving in a low key way. Von Otter sings it in a simple
and expressive manner.
then follows Telemann’s Canary Cantata; his Funeral
Music for an artistic Canary. The piece is intended to be
a humorous satire and Von Otter exploits the piece to maximum
effect. Not everyone will like her quasi-operatic way with the
music but the results are undeniably effective. Von Otter obviously
relishes the opportunity the piece gives her, variously milking
the vocal line for over-expressiveness, spitting consonants
unmercifully and expressively spinning out the vocal line.
final item is another piece of commandeering, this time Where’er
you walk from Semele. I’m not completely convinced
by this, attractive though it is. I miss the edge that a fine
tenor can bring to the vocal line.
is a charming recital and essential listening for those who
have followed Von Otter’s career. If you’ve got her later recordings
then you’ll definitely want this one.