Jennifer Larmore - Bravura Diva
Jennifer Larmore has many enterprising solo discs to her name. To date this is the most impressive of all, not just technically but in quality of voice and resourcefulness of expression. It should also secure – or perhaps confirm – recognition that she has a genuinely distinguished place among present-day singers. Having made an excitingly strong initial impact some 13 years ago, there was a danger she would slip prematurely into that numerous company of singers who are taken for granted; and also a tendency to develop a raw, worn tone on high notes, the As and Bs especially, which should be the crowning glory of the Rossini mezzo. Very little of that is heard here; instead, some splendidly full-voiced notes above the stave, culminating in the high C at the end of Serse’s cavatina from Pacini’s long-forgotten Temistocle.
But of course all of this music has been forgotten – written off years ago as irredeemably old-fashioned – and would probably have remained so had it not been for the work of Opera Rara and scholars in the field. The first item, Costa’s Eloisa, should help to restore the good name of that composer, whose idiom here owes more to Weber than to Rossini but who is nevertheless adept at writing creatively within a conventional Italian form. Most striking is the lengthy excerpt from Pacini’s Carlo di Borgogna (1835), which is always going its own way and following up interesting musical ideas while working within a well-defined structure. ‘Bravura Diva’ is the disc’s title, centring on the quite exceptional virtuosity of the singer; but it shouldn’t escape attention that the repertoire has claims of its own. The other soloists contribute worthily; conductors, orchestra and chorus also; and, as ever, the expert notes of Dr Jeremy Commons.