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Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano)
Il giardino dei sospiri
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Arianna abbandonata, cantata (after 1727)
Leonardo VINCI (1690-1730)
Sinfonia from Maria dolorata, oratorio, Sinfonia (c. 1723)
Francesco GASPARINI (1661-1727)
Atalia, oratorio (1696)
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Angelica e Medoro (after 1730)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Sinfonia from Agrippina, opera (1709/10)
Qual ti riveggio, oh Dio (Ero e Leandro), cantata, (1707)
Collegium 1704/Václav Luks
rec. 2018, Church of St. Anne, Prague
Sung Italian texts with English translations in booklet
PENTATONE PTC5186725 SACD [81:44]

Magdalena Kožená returns to baroque music in her first album for Pentatone, Il giardino dei sospiri (The Garden of Sighs) . The disc of secular music by Marcello, Vinci, Gasparini, Leo and Handel contains mainly arias that focus on scenes from Italian-language cantatas and oratorios, and on arias sung by tragic heroines. My experience suggests that a new Kožená album is an event to look forward; see the reviews of ‘Love and Longing’ and the Monteverdi album. Kožená is accompanied here by Collegium 1704 who use period instruments; vocal contributions are separated by instrumental pieces.

This Italian journey commences in Venice with Marcello/. He is represented by the cantata Arianna abbandonata that contains Arianna’s extended and moving lament Come mai puoi. Kožená, as the heroine shattered by Theseus’s abandonment, excels. She communicates a disarming level of anguished expression over her hopeless and painful situation.

Kožená seamlessly achieves a stark change of mood in the upbeat and passionate aria Che dolce foco in petto (I feel a sweet fire in my breast) from Gasparini’s Old Testament oratorio Atalia (or Athaliah). Kožená is singing the title role of the Judean Queen. In the aria Ombre, cure, sospetti (Shadows, anguish, doubts), the mezzo-soprano demonstrates convincing expression as Atalia reveals complete disgust at her murderous actions and is condemned to living in a hell on earth.

Leo is represented by his pastoral cantata Or ch'è dal sol difesa… (Now that this fragrant grass…) also known as Angelica e Medoro. My highlight is the aria Or ch'è dal sol difesa from which the work takes its name. Kožená, in the trouser role of Medora the Saracen knight, asks princess Angelica to leave her grotto and rest together in the sun. She sings with lovely phrasing, line and diction.

Handel’s cantata Ero e Leandro, also known by its first line Qual ti reveggio, oh Dio, deserves to be better known. This is an adaptation of the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Kožená delivers a stunning interpretation of the aria Si muora, si muora (Let me die, Let me die). The singer affectingly depicts priestess Ero’s torment when she decides to join her beloved Leandro in death by throwing herself into the sea.

Magdalena Kožená’s voice comfortably displays consistent focus and a smoothness of tone across her range. Her low register sounds richer than ever. These arias do not ask for considerable coloratura display, but Kožená achieves her ornamentation favourably when required. Czech-based ensemble Collegium 1704, directed from the violin by founder Václav Luks, proves to be a sensitive and supportive partner for Kožená’s artistry. In the Sinfonia from Handel’s opera Agrippina, Collegium 1704 give a persuasive performance, high on style and brio. The period-instruments sound entirely compelling, especially the timbre of the cleanly articulated strings.

The booklet contains a short introduction by Magdalena Kožená, a foreword from Václav Luks, and Giovanni Andrea Sachi’s informative essay, plus the Italian texts with English translations. There is no problem whatsoever with the sound quality: it is clear, detailed, with excellent balance.

From her first note to her last Magdalena Kožená is captivating. Certainly, lovers of baroque music are in for a treat with this album.

Michael Cookson
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739)
Arianna abbandonata, cantata
1) Prestissimo [2:49]
2) Adagio assai [2:07]
3) In minuet. Presto [0:50[
4) Recitative: Dove, misera, dove [2:37]
5) Aria: Come mai puoi [11:01]
6) Recitative: Se fia che pensi, o caro [1:09]
7) Aria: Che dolce foco in petto [5:56]
Leonardo VINCI (1690-1730)
Maria dolorata, oratorio, Sinfonia
8) Allegro [2:09]
9) Largo [0:25]
10) Minuet [2:06]
Francesco GASPARINI (1661-1727)
Atalia, oratorio
11) Aria: Ombre, cure, sospetti [5:09]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
Or ch'è dal sol difesa (Angelica e Medoro), cantata
12) Aria: Or ch'è dal sol difesa [7:44]
13) Recitative: Siedi, siedi ben mio [2:33]
14) Aria: Che detto avranno mai [5:19]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Agrippina, opera, HWV 6
15) Sinfonia [3:35]
Qual ti riveggio, oh Dio, (Ero e Leandro), cantata, HWV 150
16) Recitative: Qual ti riveggio, oh Dio [0:40]
17) Aria: Empio mare, onde crudely [7:10]
18) Recitative: Amor, che ascoso ne’ suoi vaghi lumi [0:42]
19) Aria: Se la morte non vorrà [6:55]
20) Recitative: Questi dalla mia fronte [0:56]
21) Aria: Si muora, si muora [8:40]
22) Recitative: Ecco, gelide labra [1:03]

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