A couple years ago, every singer and her sister was making a Handel album. During that trend, soprano Natalie Dessay and conductor Emmanuelle Haïm teamed up to make a superlative Handel disc called Delirio. This new Bach album is not the first disc that has reunited Dessay with Le Concert d'Astrée in the years since, but it is the first solo album and it has been a favorite in my player since it came across my desk. Dessay's Bach cantata disc is not quite the equal of that Handel recital, not least because some of Dessay's mannerisms, like affective scooping, seem more cloying. Her voice has not fully returned to the angelic purity and stupefying pyrotechnical flair it had before her vocal surgery for nodes, but when she keeps the tone sharp and clean, it is still a marvel to hear. In fact, as noted of her Pamina in Santa Fe, there is more complexity to the sound now, which is a bonus.
Bach, Cantatas, N. Dessay, Le Concert D'Astrée, E. Haïm
(released on January 13, 2009)
Virgin Classics 50999 519314 2 1
What makes this disc so worth repeated listening is actually the playing of Le Concert d'Astrée, which Haïm has helped to present a rhythmically taut performance in a canvas of varied and pleasing colors. Neil Brough's trumpet makes a virtuosic double of Dessay's stratospheric acrobatics in Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51), and Haïm herself provides warm continuo support on harpsichord, with Yves Castagnet sharing the work on the portative organ. Ich habe genug (BWV 82a) and Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (BWV 99) -- all three cantatas are recorded complete -- are now both closely associated with the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and singers who try to appropriate them may risk accusations of blasphemy. Again it is Haïm's ensemble who make these performances unique, with the dusky, note-perfect sound of the traverso (Alexis Kossenko and Olivier Bénichou) in BWV 82a and the plaintive oboe (Patrick Beaugiraud) in BWV 199. These are memorable performances, and one can only hope that Le Concert d'Astrée undertakes more Bach cantatas on disc.
Natalie Dessay and Emmanuelle Haïm, Alleluja (from BWV 51)
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