Magdalena Kožená - Vivaldi Arias
Magdalena Kozená and the Venice Baroque Orchestra follow up their Handel album with a collection of 14 Vivaldi arias taken from 10 operas (and also the enraged “Armatae face et anguibus” from the oratorio Juditha triumphans). A third of the arias have not been included in Naïve’s Vivaldi Edition so far, which suggests that Kozená (presumably advised by Vivaldi scholar Frédéric Delaméa) has devoted some effort to exploring less familiar scores. In the booklet, Kozená remarks that Andrea Marcon and his Venetian accomplices “have this music in their blood”, and how entering the studio without having performed the pieces forced their music-making to be “freshly baked”; she also compares the concentrated emotion required for singing Vivaldi’s serenest slow arias to the state of mind required to do yoga.
The decision to pack the programme with slower and subtler arias pays dividends: “Sonno, se pur sei sonno” (Tito Manlio) is a quietly ravishing opener, “Sol da te” (Orlando furioso) features beguiling flute-playing by Michele Favaro, and the disc concludes with an exquisite interpretation of “Mentre dormi” (L’Olimpiade). Kozená’s singing is often at its best; only her forced upward appoggiatura at the end of “Non mi lusinga” is unconvincing. There is plenty of dramatic bite on offer even in slow music, especially in the compellingly taut “Gelido in ogni vena” (based on the opening of “Winter” from the Four Seasons), as Kozená eloquently conveys Farnace’s icy shock that he has unwittingly condemned his son to death. Kozená remarks that the performers were cautious to avoid overplaying big extremes in the music (a trap that all concerned fell into in their Handel disc), but Marcon often uses astonishing tricks in the accompaniments (imaginative or mannered, depending on your point of view), and Kozená’s implication of moderation certainly isn’t evident in tempestuous accounts of quicker music such as Tullia’s “Misero spirto mio” (Ottone in Villa) and Griselda’s bitter outburst “Ho il cor già lacero”. There haven’t been many captivating Vivaldi opera aria anthologies, but this is definitely among the most intriguing, theatrically varied and convincing.