Miah Persson: Sempre libera
Swedish soprano Miah Persson uses this recital to go a grade or two heavier than her accustomed Mozart, Handel and Monteverdi, trying out the florid showpieces of the Italian and French 19th century. Popular though they are, the choice of items and their sequence in this recital are refreshingly unhackneyed, more than just a hit list of vocal display items. And it’s a change to hear again French successes of an older era such as Meyerbeer’s ‘Ombre légère’ or Messager’s Butterfly-forerunner Madame Chrysanthème.
Persson’s is, as always, a voice that makes you want to follow a musical and dramatic story, one that genuinely talks character and emotion to the listener. She is no brainless automatic canary: the top of the voice and the runs are negotiated distinctly, almost classically, rather than just thrown off with burning-fuse abandon. It was a clever idea to make Violetta’s ‘Sempre libera’ the climax of the programme and record it live with ensuing storm of applause. The scena is excitingly built by Harding and his Swedish Radio orchestra, and delivered deliberately pure (no interposed top notes) by the soprano. As an encore comes a specially slow ‘O mio babbino caro’, another telling plan to top off the programme.
So here is an intelligent recital disc that can be listened to in one as a balanced concert rather than merely picking the plums off like downloads. The concentration of Harding and his orchestra is not to be underestimated; serious work has been done on all this repertoire, familiar or not. Atmospheric, well-balanced recording and a live feel (is there more concert material used here than just the Verdi?); recommended.