Sogno barocco, A. S. von Otter, S. Piau, S. Sundberg, Ensemble Cappella Mediterranea, L. García Alarcón
(released on August 28, 2012)
Naïve V 5286 | 71'
The later Baroque selections often suited von Otter's voice better, except for when some odd musical characterization drove her to excess, as in the shivering repetitions of Purcell's What Power Art Thou from King Arthur. The composer's more conventional pieces, like Music for a While and especially Venus's Fairest Isle, also from King Arthur, were lovely. At least a partial reason for von Otter's choice of repertory seemed to be based on the oddity of some pieces, beginning with Francesco Provenzale's cantata Squarciato appena havea, which interpolates Neapolitan street ballads, of extremely low, even ribald content, into an artful lament by the Queen of Sweden Maria Eleonora over her dead husband. Recorded on her Sogno barocco album, it is a truly weird piece, and von Otter brought out all its eccentricities, reaching for a tambourine and other percussion instruments to heighten the shift between learned and popular.
Anne Midgette, Anne Sofie von Otter has chosen to be a singer who is expressive, not excessive (Washington Post, November 19)
James R. Oestreich, Review: The Mezzo-Soprano Anne Sofie von Otter at the Frick Collection (New York Times, November 15)
David Patrick Stearns, Anne Sofie von Otter at the Perelman: Warm, expansive, charismatic (Philadelphia Inquirer, November 13)
One of the highlights was an austere rendition of Arvo Pärt's My Heart's in the Highlands, from 2000, which introduced a concluding section of recent popular songs (not reviewed). Pärt's original organ part was here split between Cohen playing the longer notes on the Baroque organ and Dunford taking the arpeggiated notes on theorbo. In a twelve-measure pattern, with four measures of the voice declaiming the text on a single note followed by eight bars of instruments alone, the piece has a mesmerizing quality and the combination of these three musicians created a sense of timeless stasis. Since my family's trip this past summer to see where our Downey ancestors came from in Scotland, this poem by Robert Burns and this musical setting have greater meaning for me.
The Library of Congress's 90th anniversary season continues this evening with a concert by Apollo's Fire, the Baroque ensemble based in Cleveland, and soprano Amanda Forsythe (November 19, 8 pm).