MOZART Operatic Arias
‘Singing Mozart is second nature to her,’ enthuses Rattle of Magdalena Kozená. ‘Each woman on each track is a completely distinct personality.’ Promotional hype? Well, in hyper-Beckmesserish mode you could say her legato in ‘Per pietà’ is not quite seamless, the tempo for ‘Deh vieni’ a touch too jaunty. But this is barrel-scraping. If anyone has recorded a lovelier Mozart recital in recent years, I’ve yet to hear it. In her early thirties, Kozená is now consummate mistress of her art. Her liquid high mezzo, with its easy upward extension, combines warmth with the bloom and freshness of youth, while her coloratura, on display in ‘Al desio di chi t’adora’ (composed as a substitute for ‘Deh vieni’), is as brilliant and expressive as Bartoli’s, yet without the Italian diva’s intrusive aspirates.
Beyond this, Rattle’s claim is hard to refute. Cherubino (whose ‘Voi che sapete’ is sung in an embellished version published in 1810) and Dorabella (a blithe, flighty ‘È amore un ladroncino’) are the only roles here in Kozená’s stage repertoire. But she ‘lives’ each of these wide-ranging characters intensely, from the remorseful Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito (sorrow etched into the texture of her voice) via the tenderness and anguish of Ilia in Idomeneo to a delightfully sly, knowing Despina. The vivid, tangy accompaniments from Rattle and the OAE go well beyond mere good style, with a classy basset-horn obbligato from Anthony Pay in the Vitellia aria. Fortepianist Jos van Immerseel is an equally sympathetic partner in an impassioned yet intimate performance of ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te’, written for the first Susanna, Nancy Storace, and memorably described by Paul Hamburger as ‘the most mature love-letter ever written in music’.
Though slightly less immediate and specific in her responses than Kozená, Miah Persson, in tandem with Yevgeny Sudbin, is hardly less moving in ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te’, one of two items common to both discs. The other is ‘Deh vieni’, a delightful memento of the Swedish soprano’s dazzling, sensuous Susanna at Covent Garden. More recently Persson has rightly won accolades for her Glyndebourne Fiordiligi, compensating for any lack of heroic weight with her sweet, gleaming timbre, her clean negotiation of the wide intervals (confirmed here in a splendid ‘Come scoglio’) and her natural elegance of style. Her smiling tone and agile coloratura technique make for a truly joyous ‘Exsultate, jubilate!’; she gives a noble account of Sifare’s farewell aria (with obbligato horn) from Mitridate, while that exquisite lullaby ‘Ruhe sanft’ is as dulcet and gracefully phrased as you could wish.
Occasionally, as in the otherwise brilliant bravura close of ‘Schon lacht der holde Frühling’, Persson can sing fractionally under the note. And well as they play, the (modern-instrument) Swedish Chamber Orchestra cannot quite match the OAE, for Kozená, in character and point. But with few provisos this is a delectable recital, not least in an enchantingly deft and spirited performance of the waltz-song ‘Un moto di gioia’ (another substitute aria for Susanna) that aptly gives the disc its name.