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Von Otter's Bach

available at Amazon
Bach, Arias, A. S. von Otter, Concerto Copenhagen, L. U. Mortensen

(released on April 14, 2009)
Archiv B0012820-02
Anne Sofie von Otter strikes me as primarily a dramatic singer, but with her rich, puissant voice, turned upon well-conceived programs of music, she can command one's interest and attention as a recitalist, too. Even so, Bach is not necessarily for everybody, and her contributions to this recent selection of arias and duets are uneven enough that it should not receive a completely positive review. Von Otter tends to be suave and mellow at slow tempi (like the sultry chest-voiced and chromatic Schläfert allen Sorgenkummer from BWV 197) but becomes too mannered in the faster selections, over-enunciating and chopping up the melodic line with explosive consonants. She explains her approach in the liner notes, a sort of interview with Kenneth Chalmers, as an exploitation of the text and its sonic qualities. One can understand the intention, but the results in a couple of the tracks, perhaps because of the closeness of the microphones (seated far away in a live recital, the technique would come off much differently), are disappointing.

The best parts of this recording are really on the instrumental side. Lars Ulrik Mortensen, whose recording of the Bach harpsichord concertos with the same ensemble, the Concerto Copenhagen, was recently under review, leads an incisive and well-scaled performance from the continuo organ (with a solo turn in the sinfonia from BWV 35). This is a bonus especially in the selections with little vocal interest, as when the singers simply carry a chorale tune, with the instruments weaving the interesting texture around it. The instrumental obbligati are all well played, especially the three different types of Baroque oboe. In short, it is the playing more than the singing on this disc that makes it worthwhile.


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