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Vivaldi fioritura - Opera arias and motet In furore giustissimae irae RV 626

Julia Kogan & Chamber Orchestra Kremlin/Misha Rachlevsky

Rideau Rouge Records RRR002
[distr. Harmonia Mundi]

A well chosen selection of arias from Arsilda, Il Giustino, Il Bajazet, Ottone etc, plus a major motet, makes this a delightful disc from a fine Ukranian-born coloratura soprano with the excellent Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, which provides alert and sensitive accompaniments.

A labour of love; recommended to Vivaldi collectors as worth seeking out.

The disc (recorded in 2007 in Moscow) has an interesting genesis, the story of which can be found in the full version of an interview excerpted below.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Audiophile Sound

Interview 2007 with coloratura soprano Julia Kogan and Misha Rachlevsky, artistic director of Chamber Orchestra Kremlin.

Audio: Could you tell us a little about the arias you recorded?

Julia: I would like to focus on what I found irresistible in each aria. “Ben conosco a poco a poco”, is light as air and very charming. It struck me immediately as being a precursor to Cherubino’s arias in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro both stylistically and textually, as is its counterpart “Un certo non so che”, both from Arsilda Regina di Ponto. Then comes “Vedrò con mio diletto” which is, I admit, my favorite piece of music on the recording. It is not only a stunningly beautiful and timeless melody, a profound sentiment, but also the best example of a deeply moving and personal text ideally set to music by Vivaldi. Truly, it is a masterpiece, as is “Alma oppressa”, one of the most difficult arias technically speaking, and also one of the loveliest. Once again, there is a perfect marriage between the text and Vivaldi’s inspired setting of it. And who can resist the advice offered? “Let chains around your feet make you suffer, but not those around your heart!” The other aria from La Fida Ninfa, “Dite oimè”, is more a recitative than an aria, accompanied only by cello and harpsichord continuo, but is so pure and strong, bathed in Baroque melancholy. It could have been Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be?” here, “should I live or die?”

The three arias for Il Bajazet are striking. “Nasce rosa lusinghiera” is pure magic, and in our version of it, it almost feels like a tune coming out of a toy music box. There is a playful sunbeam in this one. “Sposa, son disprezzata” is monumental in its emotional impact, and gothic in tone. It is, deservedly, one of the most famous of all Baroque arias. “Anch’il mar par che sommerga” is a classic coloratura spectacular, and representative of the style. The most surprising aria musically speaking is “Squarciami pure il seno” from Il Tigrane. It stops and starts, is full of jolts and changes, and is very effective musically and dramatically. The two arias from Ottone in Villa are diametric opposites of one another. “Gelosia, tu già rendi l'alma mia” is violent and rhythmically driven in a quintessentially Vivaldi manner. “Quanto m’alletta” is innocent and tender, and I adored the repetition of the transposed chromatic melody on the word “l’amante”, and the orchestral opening. I end this description with the piece that began my Vivaldian adventure, the great motet In furore. I was in love with its opening phrase from the moment I put the score on my piano and began to sing, in disbelief at the beauty of it. The piece is a world unto itself, a complete picture, with drama, sweet sadness, and a triumphant Alleluia, and is one of the most potent pieces of liturgical music I know. All these arias put together are a great gift to a singer.

Audio: Misha, we know of your virtuosic string orchestra through its many recordings, but this is the first with Baroque repertoire.

Misha: I make no pretense of offering the listeners an authentic version of these works, of trying to approximate them as they may have sounded when performed in Vivaldi’s time. Nor am I interested in what was fashionable in the 1980’s and earlier, before the current quality of Baroque ensembles came to be.

I hoped to give a historically informed reading of these works, but allowing for the sound of the modern instruments on which my orchestra plays (by the way, a few of them are made by contemporary Cremonese makers), as well as a certain modern musical awareness we have acquired through the performances of music from other periods. I wanted the music to be somewhat liberated, unmasked, from the strict stylistic conventions. Our goal was to make a recording that is stylistically appropriate to the period while retaining our usual emotional involvement with this musically rich material.

Audio: Why did you choose to do an entire disc of Vivaldi arias?

I was very lucky to have enlisted the help of Dr. Eric Cross, an eminent British musicologist and conductor specializing in Vivaldi operas, who had himself edited a number of critical editions of scores that were used in various outstanding recordings. Eric was kind enough to send me a pile of scores, and I listened to every Vivaldi vocal recording I could get my hands on. What an amazing discovery. At its best, there are masterpieces, which send shivers up and down my spine. Encapsulated within that music is the very essence, the great chiaroscuro heart of the Italian Baroque. I was swept off my feet, and what had started as an effort to find enough material ended with me cutting down a far too long list of arias I very much wanted to record.

Audio: And were there particular vocal challenges?

Julia: Yes, Vivaldi is not easy to sing well. The coloratura work has to be very fast and precise, and the phrases can be fiendishly long. The voice is never given the sort of freedom to open that one finds in bel canto singing, and yet legato must be combined with fioratura, which should, nevertheless, remain distinct. It was a tremendous effort for me to try to identify a way of accomplishing those tasks, and of maintaining a sound I felt to be my own. Not being a specialist Baroque singer, I wanted to explore ways of keeping as much of the natural color of my voice intact - - and find my own natural Baroque sound. I lightened my voice to match the character of some of the arias, sang fully and dramatically in others. I want to do a lot more Baroque singing. It is powerful, and can be extremely expressive within a disciplined technique.


We have received also Mozart, Schubert & Rachmaninoff songs with Julia Kogan accompanied superbly throughout by Christopher Glynn.

It finishes with a scarifying account of Schubert's Erlkonig.

Recommendable, but no texts or translations !

[Art Supply NGCD00045 n.l.a]