Il Giardino Dei Sospiri
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Il Giardino Dei Sospiri

Magdalena Kozena, Collegium 1704, Václav Luks

On her first PENTATONE album, Czech star mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená returns to the baroque repertoire that launched her early career.

Il Giardino dei Sospiri is a collection of scenes from secular cantatas on tragic love, ranging from Handel’s Qual ti riveggio to new editions of works by Leo (Angelica e Medoro), Marcello (Arianna abbandonata) and Gasparini (Atalia). These vocal works are connected through instrumental pieces by Handel (sinfonia of Agrippina), Vinci (sinfonia from Maria dolorata) and Sarro.

Initially conceived as a scenic project, Il Giardino dei Sospiri offers a richly-faceted and profoundly moving aural drama. Kožená interprets the tragic heroines of these love stories with fervour, accompanied by Václav Luks and Collegium 1704.

Review

Magdalena Kožená’s silvery mezzo soprano voice is a fascinating one: she possesses a bright upper register befitting a coloratura soprano, and a rich, penetrative depth throughout her range which allows her voice to resonate well above the orchestra, even when at a low pitch. Although Kožená began her career singing primarily baroque music, she has broadened her repertoire to encompass all sorts, from Mahler to the music of her Czech homeland to Cole Porter and beyond. For her first recording with audiophile label Pentatone, Kožená has returned to the baroque – a move she likens to ‘returning to my grandparents’ loft’ for its warming familiarity.

Under the baton of Václav Luks and accompanied by baroque ensemble Collegium 1704, in Il giardiano dei sospiri Kožená presents a program featuring scenes from 18th century secular cantatas. Some, such as Handel’s ‘Qual ti riveggio, oh Dio’ may be familiar, others may not. The aria ‘Ombre, cure, sospetti’ from Gasparini’s oratorio Atalia is dramatic with frequent and unexpected shifts in tempo, dynamic, and lyricism. Equally worthy of mention is Leonardo Leo’s bright, pastoral and at times suitably languorous ‘Or ch’é dal sol difesa’. A fine recording from one of the great mezzo sopranos of our time.

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