Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Lamento della ninfa: Amor, amor [4:23]
Tarquinio MERULA (1595-1665)
Folle Ŕ ben che si crede [3:00]
Chi vuol ch'io m'innamori [2:22]
Antoine BO╦SSET (1586-1643)
Quelles beautÚs, ˘ mortels (RÚcit de MnÚmosyne) arr. Matteo Messori [2:32]
Frescos ayres del prado arr. Matteo Messori [4:36]
Luis de BRIăEĐO (fl 1610-1630)
Ay amor loco, orch. Luigi Mangiocavallo [3:09]
Barbara STROZZI (1619-1677)
Che si pu˛ fare? orch. Luigi Mangiocavallo [4:23]
Michel LAMBERT (1610-1696)
Sombres deserts [3:12]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
The Fairy Queen, Act III: If Love's a Sweet Passion [2:08]
Dido and Aeneas, Act III: Thy Hand Belinda ... When I Am Laid in Earth (Dido's Lament) [4:36]
Francesco MANELLI (1592-1667)
Ciaccone et Arie a uno, due e tre voci, libero III, Op.3: Grida l'alma a tutt' ore [2:30]
Giovanni LEGRENZI (1626-1690)
La divisione del Mondo, Act III: Chi mi tolse alle sfere! ... Lumi potete piangere [3:32]
John ECCLES (c.1668-1735)
The Comical History of Don Quixote: I Burn, I Burn [2:22]
Restless in Thoughts orch. Matteo Messori [7:44]
Antonio CESTI (1623-1669)
L’Arigia, Act III: Disserratevi abissi orch. Luigi Mangiocavallo [4:58]
L’Orontea, Act II: Piu bella maestÓ ... Dormi, dormi ben mio [3:40]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Now, O Now I Needs Must Part [5:07]
Simone Kermes (soprano)
La Magnifica ComunitÓ/Enrico Casazza (violin and director)
rec. April 2015, Sala della CaritÓ, Padua
Texts and translations included
SONY 88875 111382 [65:25]

Over the years I have maintained a pretty powerful admiration for Simone Kermes. That admiration was vexed by her Bel Canto album, which I found disappointingly unidiomatic. But when she returns, as here, to the kind of repertoire with which I best associate her, there’s no arguing with her fervent and powerful vocalism. Or, perhaps, there is arguing with it, but only in the context of her singular gifts – even though her musical qualities are not always critically appreciated.

All this is another way of saying that, like Cecilia Bartoli, she divides opinion. Her latest album is one devoted to Love, and the music spans the seventeenth century, with composers ranging from Monteverdi to Purcell, and from Michel Lambert to John Eccles. Apart from the niceties of the programming, mention should be made of the orchestrations and arrangements. Some have been made by Luigi Mangiocavallo, and others by the harpsichordist and organist in the accompanying ensemble, Matteo Messori. This will not suit purists as the arrangements are in no sense striving for historical fidelity – there’s a decided feel of informality about some of the string passages and indeed the performances (and, incidentally, some of the singing too) that marks out a very different territory for this disc.

Her treatment of Monteverdi’s Amor, amor shows a more focused tone than sometimes encountered on her more florid, operatically explicit discs. The music sways deftly, its terpsichorean qualities attended to, and if I find she overdoes the rolling of her ‘r’ others will, perhaps, not be so prescriptive. When Koženß sings Merula’s Folle Ŕ ben che si crede (DG 477 8764) one finds a different aesthetic at work. Not only is the Czech singer much slower and dreamier, her voice heavier and her vibrato more insistent, her orchestra is also more refined, detailed and overtly alluring. Kermes’s is a brisker and unsentimentally straightforward reading. I like her RÚcit de MnÚmosyne: this is more the Kermes of old, more the incendiary vocalist, full of communicative Úlan.

If sometimes the voice can sound rather bleached of colour at the top – try Strozzi’s Che si pu˛ fare? – and just occasionally seems to run into a touch of trouble, as I sense it does in Purcell’s If love’s a sweet passion, rich compensation comes in those pieces in which she seems signally at home, such as the vividly expressed drama of Manelli’s Grida l'alma a tutt' ore. The chorale-like purity of Frescos ayres del prado and the melancholy descents of Legrenzi’s Chi mi tolse alle sfere! ... Lumi potete piangere alike attest to the range of her expressive qualities. And if one would more incline to Catherine Bott in her album of Mad Songs when she essays Eccles’s I Burn, I burn – the divisions are more incisive, the vibrato more focused – Kermes offers a very different kind of experience. Arab flavourings infuse Eccles’s Restless in Thoughts – dramatically if unexpectedly so. Dido’s Lament as the envoi offers a melancholic reflection on Love in an album which takes the listener on a kaleidoscopic journey from love-madness through love-sickness to love-passion.

This enjoyable album contains some splendid examples of musicianship and some other rather more idiosyncratic ones – both in terms of the orchestrations, some of the playing, and sometimes the singing. But Kermes is Kermes and always worth hearing.

Jonathan Woolf

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