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Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Ich danke dem Herrn von ganzem Herzen (Psalm 111) TWV7:14 [5:16]
Georg Friedrich HÄNDEL (1685-1759)
Samson HWV57: Kommt, all ihr Seraphim [6:21]
Messiah HWV 56: Sie schallt, die Posaun [9:41]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Christmas Oratorio BWV248: Großer Herr, o starker König [5:32]
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV51 [17:52]
Lucia Popp (soprano); Jorma Hynninen (baritone); Carole Dawn Reinhart (trumpet); Amsterdamer Kammerorchester/Marinus Voorberg
No details of recording dates or venue give
ACANTA 233603 [44:53]

As a great admirer of the Art of Lucia Popp I am probably not the most objective critic of this album. Trying to keep from simply burbling appreciatively I have to say that the music-making on this disc is a complete delight. It also has to be said that if it can be considered a triumph of performance it is something of a train-wreck as a production. Consider the following. Acanta have licensed this 1979 playrighted disc - no recording details are given - and are trying to sell it in a crowded, money-conscious marketplace. It is priced around the £10.00 mark with some retailers going up as high as £14.00 for a disc with no texts and a stingy sub-forty-five minute playing time. Delighted as I am to see Popp given top-billing it is only fair to say that it is in fact trumpeter Carol Dawn Reinhart who is present in every work not Popp. If it is Popp you are after, Acanta are happy to shoot themselves in the foot. By this I refer to that fact that all of the same performances/movements with Popp are also available in a 4 disc compilation from Acanta called Lucia Popp: The Unforgotten which is available from the same retailer who charges £14.00 for the single disc for £11.88 for four … less elsewhere. Finally add a remarkably drab picture of Popp alone on the cover and I would have thought the chance of anyone impulse-purchasing this disc will be all but nil.
 
I would rather focus on the music-making. Popp is her predictably superb self. There’s her accustomed bright focused tone with a palpable sense of joy and vigour in all she does. Reinhardt on trumpet is excellent as is the orchestral accompaniment from the Amsterdamer Kammerorchester under Marius Voorberg. The orchestral style is what one might call ‘historically informed modern’. It’s neat and light playing but on modern instruments. The one real loss in opting for the four disc set over this version is the omission of the second (bass) aria of the short but gem-like Telemann Psalm 111 setting. Jorma Hynninen’s voice at this time matches Popp well - clear and well focused with a lighter tone than he seems to have developed in later years. This is the finest, most characterful of his three contributions to the disc. The Messiah bass aria The trumpet shall sound is given in its German version - as is Popp’s excerpt from Samson. Hynninen presents a very lithe and attractive version if one rather short on the implicit drama. The orchestral accompaniment too slightly smoothes off the dotting of the rhythms to the detriment of the piece. Likewise, his Christmas Oratorio excerpt is perfectly good but not really a reason to beat a path to this particular disc’s door.
 
The glorious Bach Cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV51 is just such a reason - and it is complete on the multi-disc set above too. Popp is perfect to my ear. For sure hers may not be the most purely beautiful soprano voice ever to essay the work - I grew up with Elly Ameling’s serenely sublime recording - but Popp captures the joyful spirit to perfection. The two outer movements feature Reinhart’s beautifully controlled trumpet playing and the engineers have effectively balanced her to the voice with Popp centre-right and Reinhart centre-left. The three central movements are a delight too. In the recitative the tenuto string phrasing belies the old-fashioned non-authentic approach but the flowing tempo allows Popp’s silvery delivery to float ecstatically above it in bright-eyed wonder. Lovely playing too from the two concertante violin parts in the penultimate ‘choral’ Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren - another of those miraculous fusions of chorale and contrapuntal writing that Bach seemed able to write at will. The closing Alleluja is as life-enhancing a piece of baroque music as any I know and Popp is fully in control of all of the considerable technical demands it makes of the singer both in terms of tessitura and contrapuntal technique.
 
A performance of considerable stature then and one I am delighted to have heard but Acanta need to reassess their business and pricing model for re-releases of such high artistic merit to attain the commercial success they deserve.
 
Nick Barnard 



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