Mozart’s Women – Part One

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on April 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

Review – Mozart Opera & Concert Arias (Karina Gauvin, Les Violons Due Roy, Bernard Labadie)

Over the last few weeks I have been throrougly enjoying two recital discs from opposite ends of the performance spectrum but both highly recommended.

The first is by Karina Gauvin, perhaps better known – to me at least – as a consummate Handelian so hearing her Mozart was – except for a random recording of Exsultate Jubilate – an almost new experience.

However, having seen her live as well as possessing both her recital and complete opera recordings, I did notice that while the technique definitely hasn’t diminished, her vocal tone – particularly in the upper part of her range – has narrowed. Yet while it might not have the robust quality of her Porpora recital for example there is a gleam to her singing that has fortunately replaced the ‘matronly’ tone of her Cleopatra in Curtis’ recording of Giulio Cesare.

And it certainly doesn’t detract from the quality of either her performance or musicianship.

Ms Gauvin is an elegant Mozartian.

Her opening aria, Aer tranquillo from Il Re Pastore is stylishly delivered, and beautifully articulated. And naturally the she cuts through the coloratura with ease.

On the strength of her Giunse al fin il momento … Deh vieni, non tardar, I would take her Countess over that of Ms Kermes any day. There is a lightness to the accompagnato with words delivered with laser-like precision that hardly prepares you for the beauty of the aria. She spins out the ensuing aria with a real purity of line, imbuing the vocal line with a beguiling sense of simplicity.

To this day, the entry of the piano obbligato in Ch’io mi scordi di te? Non temer amato bene still manages to catch me by surprise. So it’s a shame that as elegantly as it is played on this disc, I can find no trace of the soloist’s name. Perhaps it is Bernard Labadie? Who knows? But here paired with Ms Gauvin – even if the pace of the aria is somewhat sedate – I have to say that this is one of the best performances of this aria I have heard in a long time. A real gem.

It is in the second concert aria, Misera, dove son! Ah, non son io che parlo, where Ms Gauvin sounds particularly exposed but again her musical intelligence wins through with some elegant phrasing and dynamic control.

But if I had to choose one aria from this recital disc for my desert island, it would be her performance of Ach! Ich fühl’s from Die Zauberflöte. Wondrously controlled and beautifully sung, Ms Gauvin molds the winding vocal line, making her closing phrase – hanging in the air almost – one of incredible emotion.

Of her selections from Così fan tutte and La Clemenza di Tito, I have to admit that her Despina – with it’s coquettishness – won me over more than her Fiordiligi and the sluggishness of Vitellia’s Non più di fiori was the only disappointing vocal track of the recital.

Throughout the recital Ms Gauvin is well supported by Les Violons Du Roy under Labadie, but considering the fire and spirit of other authentic ensembles I did wish for a bit more verve, particularly in the overtures included.

But it’s a pleasure to hear Ms Gauvin back on top form. And I hope to hear her in more Mozart in the future.

  1. […] listen to this Mozart recital disc immediately after that of Ms Gauvin is to enter a different world of sound and […]

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