musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Travelogues of Italy"

Susanne Rydén, sopranoa
Die Freitagsakademie

rec: Sept 2009, Beinwil (Switz), Klosterkirche
Winter & Winter - 910 158-2 (© 2010) (76'36")

Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713): Sonata for violin and bc in A, op. 5,6c; George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in g minor (HWV 287)b; Delirio amoroso, cantata for soprano and orchestra (HWV 99)a; Mi palpita il cor, cantata for soprano, oboe and bc (HWV 132)ab; Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725): Toccata for keyboard in d minord

Katharina Suske, oboeb; Hélène Schmittc, Vitaly Shestakovg, violin; Lorenz Hasler, viola; Bernhard Maurer, cello; Jan Krigovsky, double bass; Jonathan Rubin, archlute, guitar; Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, harpsichordd

The central figure of this disc is George Frideric Handel, and in addition to some of his compositions we hear music by two composers he has met during his stay in Italy: Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. The album lacks any liner notes: the booklet contains just the lyrics with translations in German and English. If one wants to read the liner notes one has to go to the site of Winter & Winter.

Here we read that the Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in g minor (HWV 287) is reflecting the influence of Corelli as it follows the four-movement pattern of the sonata da camera. This piece opens the programme. There are nice ornaments, but the interpretation isn't very speechlike, with too much legato playing. The last movement is too slow. The booklet has messed up the order of the movements: allegro, allegro, sarabande (largo), grave. The correct order is grave, allegro, sarabande (largo), allegro.

Corelli himself closes the programme with the Sonata in A, op. 5,6, from the set of 12 sonatas for violin and bc. It is played by Hélène Schmitt, but I have heard more engaging performances. I also feel she doesn't always play in tune.

Another composer Handel met in Italy was Alessandro Scarlatti. Today he is mainly known for his chamber cantatas, and in recent times his oratorios are enjoying much attention. But he also was a virtuoso keyboard player and his keyboard works show from whom his son Domenico had inherited his skills. Jörg-Andreas Bötticher delivers a fine reading of his Toccata d'ottava stesa in d minor.

The two works by Handel are secular cantatas which he composed while he was in Italy. They belong to the better-known compositions from his Italian period, and that is regrettable. Among Handel's cantatas there are plenty of pieces which are still hardly known. But it is also regrettable as I think these cantatas - and in particular Delirio amoroso - are beyond the performers' grasp. The performances are pretty disastrous as they aren't theatrical at all. The main problem is that Susanne Rydén just doesn't have what it takes to express the content of these cantatas. She has a lovely voice, and has made some very good recordings of sacred music. But Handel's cantatas require very different skills. Whereas in sacred music on German and Latin texts Ms Rydén shows to be able to articulate appropriately, here she mainly produces sound instead of text. She uses the messa di voce quite often, and that deserves applause, but often it makes no sense, and the text becomes hard to understand. Especially on high notes there is more shouting than singing. On lower notes sung with less volume her voice sometimes starts to wobble.

Ornamentation is added in abundance, but again it doesn't always makes sense, and there are some very odd ornaments to boot. In the dacapo of the aria 'Un pensiero voli in ciel' (Delirio amoroso) Susanne Rydén takes the word "pensiero" to sing a long coloratura, almost like a cadenza. She has to take breath twice, an indication the coloratura is too long. The recitatives never really come off, and it is especially here that the lack of text expression is rather painful.

The sinfonia to this cantata is well played and promising, but that is about it. Most recitatives and arias are too slow and lack energy and fire. The obbligato parts of the recorder and the oboe are nicely played, but that is not enough. The violin solo is more convincing, but could have been more imaginative. The absence of an organ in the basso continuo part is praiseworthy.

It is a mystery to me that nobody has noticed that Susanne Rydén is not the right singer for this repertoire. She hasn't done herself any favours by taking part in this undertaking which has led to a production which fails to convince in every respect.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Die Freitagsakademie
Susanne Rydén

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