Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 29 Feb 2008

Handel Arias

I haven't had a listen to good old Mr. Handel for a little while so, with the usual disclaimer that I find collections a bit obnoxious, I looked forward to listening to DG's Archiv Produktion release of Magdalena Kozena's Handel Arias with the Venice Baroque Orchestra.

The first point was that I hadn't heard or heard of the Venice Orchestra before. People will tell you that Venice is just as beautiful and mysterious as everyone else says but that decent music, in a church or elsewhere, was very hard to come by. By the sound of this disc I'd say there was at least a little - if they're ever at home. I've planned for some years to be decadent in a pallazo by a canal so perhaps I'll make an extra effort to go now even if I've missed the best of the decadence by two hundred years or so.

The mezzo, Magdalena Kozena, is worth a listen as well - just as well - I suppose there are people who buy vocal music for the backing, but I've never heard of anyone doing this. Anyway, her style is not quite as delicate as I prefer but she does have power, clarity, and versatility and she handles Handel (sorry, couldn't resist) with aplomb and believability. It is possible, though, that I'm being unfair, or at the least, leaping to conclusions about the qualities of her voice. Have you ever taken a violin or voice CD out and about to audition speaker/amplifier combinations? That experience can be truly eye-popping - the amount of difference, particularly in the highs and high-mids is huge even between items of similar price. I listened to this CD on decent but unspectacular headphones.

A little later, after listening to the Kozena CD, and completely by accident, I happened to hear the German tenor, Johann Kaufmann singing some Romantic songs while accompanied by a pianist. It was a smallish room and there was no amplification and so the purity of the sound was unsullied. This is the way to go of course, the real thing. But it's not always handy or possible to fit a tenor or a mezzo in the back of your car along with the necessary instrumentation. (Baron K)

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