Robin Johannsen : "In Dolce Amore"
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Robin Johannsen: "In Dolce Amore"

spacer Arias and cantatas by Caldara. Academia Montis Regalis, De Marchi. Texts and translations. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (Sony Music) 88843011692

JohannsenCD

So much of Antonio Caldara’s music reveals fascinating, quirky orchestration and unpredictable phrasing that it’s a shame soprano Robin Johannsen’s program offers cantatas and operatic arias that all sound alike. Da capo arias with string-based textures and metrically regular writing from the composer’s middle and late periods chug along a musically unchallenging track that rarely grabs the listener. 

It doesn’t help that Johannsen’s slender and well-curated instrumental voice, even with impeccable tuning and easy agility, is monochromatic and lacking in distinction. The young American singer is a skilled stylist and undoubtedly a strong contributor to the cast of operas and oratorios, but at this stage of her career she has not achieved the dramatic point of view to propel a major solo recording.

Sony’s engineers may be responsible for the bland sound and lack of dynamic range, but the playing is too safe to begin with. The instrumental introduction to Rotte l’Aspre Catene lacks propulsion, in spite of cute harpsichord roulades. Most of the contributions from Alessandro De Marchi’s Academia Montis Regalis sound as dull as those easy-listening modern-instrument Baroque recordings from the 1960s.

Among the most engaging offerings are the 1712 cantata Credea Niso, with its French-style introduction and rollicking gigue, “Fuggi pur,” and the opening track, “Pensieri di amante” from the 1722 Scipione nelle Spagne. These, along with two other large-scale solo cantatas from 1715 and arias from Scipione Africano, Demofoonte, Adriano in Siria, Temistocle and I Disingannati, are recorded here for the first time in editions by pre-eminent Caldara scholar Brian Pritchard. spacer 

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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