Magdalena Kozena, Wigmore Hall
Thursday 03 February 2011
After releasing a Cd of Italian love songs from the early seventeenth century, Magdalena Kozena and the Private Musicke ensemble are touring a programme based on it. ‘Lettera amorosa’ is the name of a song by Monteverdi, but in plural form it makes the perfect title for this collection of songs by his less familiar (to us) contemporaries. Given that the songs of Sigismondo D’India, Giulio Caccini, Barbara Strozzi, and Tarquinio Merula are superb, it makes good sense for Kozena to bring them back into focus.
She and Private Musicke come at this music from an interesting angle. Regarding these songs as the popular music ordinary people might have listened to, and sung, in church and street - and making a virtue of the near-absence of notational directions - they have made their own arrangements with their own instrumentation: lutes, guitars, a harp, a violone, and simple percussion including the dusty-sounding daf drum. For Kozena, the project has apparently been like a holiday: since the songs aren’t technically difficult, she has been able to cut straight to the emotional core.
And she certainly does, from the moment she bursts on stage to deliver, fortissimo, a paean by Filippo Vitali to love’s sweet pain. Her voice seems too huge for the hall, and her manner too exaggerated: she segues with gale force into D’India’s ‘Cruel Amaryllis’, and then – without missing a beat, or dropping a decibel – into a lover’s lament by Caccini. It’s all magnificent, and all wrong. These songs need space to breathe, and their sentiments need far subtler expression. Only when we come to Merula’s masterpiece – a cradle song by the Virgin Mary, which is also a searing lament – does Kozena get inside the text.
She was always too much an actor to settle for mere vocal beauty, and here she deploys a dazzling range of effects, brightening and darkening her tone as the emotional weather changes in D’India’s ‘Zephyr’, and responding with morbid emphasis to the dissonances in his setting of a poem to a dead mistress. In Strozzi’s ‘Heraclitus in love’ the pleasurable pain of unrequited love reaches its apogee, and here Kozena is superb. But in general, a less crudely aggressive singer would have packed a bigger emotional punch.
There will be a second performance tomorrow night
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'