Anna Prohaska: "Enchanted Forest"
Arias and songs by Vivaldi, Handel, Purcell, Cavalli, and Monteverdi. Arcangelo, Cohen. Texts and translations. Archiv 00289 479 0077
The venerable Yellow Label Deutsche Grammophon relaunches its pioneering early-music wing, Archiv, with a fascinating program from Anna Prohaska. The young soprano gathers the inhabitants of an enchanted forest — in particular the nymphs Daphne, who turned into a tree just seconds before Apollo pounced on her, and Calisto, the follower of Diana who was transformed into a bear after a dalliance with Jove — in wide-ranging music from Handel and Vivaldi to Purcell, Cavalli and Monteverdi. The sorceresses Armida and Morgana show up too, as well as a love-sick nymph and other creatures of the night.
Even if you don't get all the character cross-references, the program flows beautifully with carefully thought-out musical segues and a logical progression of moods. The superb period-instrument ensemble Arcangelo, led by Jonathan Cohen, brings vigor and energy to the storm-tossed arias without ever sounding driven or manic, and while Handel's "Furie terribili" sounds neither furious nor terrible, Prohaska navigates repeated notes, violin-type figuration, coloratura runs and staccatos with a clear, buoyant sound that generates excitement without pressing. Ornamentation is wonderfully inventive and informal throughout the recital, and Prohaska responds to each piece with kaleidoscopic vocal colors and accents. Handel's "Tornami a vagheggiar" in particular showcases the soprano's lithe and easy, text-based phrasing.
Purcell's bouncy instrumental hornpipes from The Fairy Queen set off Prohaska's sweet, supple reading of the same composer's gently chromatic "Mark how readily each pliant string" and her touching, expressive handling of "The Plaint." Monteverdi's "Lamento della ninfa" sounds especially pungent here, with fine contributions from tenors Thomas Walker and Samuel Boden and baritone Ashley Riches, although DG's psych-ward music-video version of the aria, released in tandem with the album, is tacky and poorly synched, undermining Prohaska's captivating singing. Best of all are two Cavalli excerpts, Calisto's "Restino imbalsamate" and the low-lying "O più d'ogni ricchezza," from Gli Amori d'Apollo e di Dafne, in which Arcangelo's flexible, colorful continuo team and Prohaska's freshness and natural delivery are highlighted.
At the end of the recital, the soprano partners herself in an uncredited rendition of Thomas Morley's "Sweet nymph (get it?), come to thy lover."
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