Lamenti - Baroque Cantatas
Some bright spark in DG’s marketing section, no doubt, was responsible for bestowing the encomium ‘An unusual diva’ on Anne Sofie von Otter on the cover of this disc. As if we didn’t know … But if in fact we didn’t, this fine and much-lauded artist adds to her laurels with this issue, which belies any doom and gloom suggested by its title with singing of an intensity of expression, subtlety of nuance and rich palette of vocal colour that leave one full of admiration. Whether lamenting a stony-hearted lover (Cessate, omai cessate) or a faithless one (in Arianna, all that remains of a lost Monteverdi opera), a queen of Arcadia (Incassum, Lesbia, rogas) or the husband of an English queen (presumably Charles I, in view of the frenzied cries for revenge), von Otter fills every word with vivid meaning while still preserving the musical line. Vengeance is also the passionate response of the lover in the Vivaldi cantata (no stranger to the record catalogue), superbly performed here, with full-blooded instrumental backing by Musica Antiqua Koln. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, another highlight of the disc is Purcell’s sad, touching Incassum, Lesbia. His O Solitude! is built on a ground bass, as of course is the little piece for solo theorbo by Piccinini, as well as the Legrenzi Corrente – neither of which, in fact, suggests lamenting (to my ear, at least). The most varied instrumentation occurs in Monteverdi’s sectional Con che soavita, with its changeable tempos and ornamental vocal line. The contribution by an admirable bass, Franz-Josef Selig, in two brief but exceptionally low-lying narrations in the Bertali (a work largely in recitative, but with interludes for three violas) should not be overlooked. Altogether an outstanding disc.'