Classic CD: Mozart, Carolyn SampsonSave
By William Dart
Releasing yet another CD of Mozart's Requiem is an act of considerable courage but, in the case of Masaaki Suzuki and his Collegium Bach Japan, warranted.
The conductor's customary meticulousness ensures choral and orchestral forces are marshalled for maximum impact in this fine BIS recording. The opening chorus is light on its feet, the Kyrie displays the full-voiced precision of his Japanese choir while thundering timpani locate the Dies Irae firmly in the eye of a spiritual storm.
The soloists are headed by the beguilingly cool Carolyn Sampson. Baritone Christian Immler might not quite plumb the depths of the Tuba Mirum but, in quartet, the four singers are sublime. The many Suzuki touches will fascinate those familiar with this unfinished masterpiece. Most interestingly, he includes an alternative version of the Tuba Mirum with bassoon rather than trombone counterpointing against the singer.
Also on the disc, Mozart's 1781 Vesperae Solennes de Confessore is a sunnier work, and Carolyn Sampson's serenely unforced Laudate Dominum is a notable highlight.
The English soprano's latest recital, Fleurs, has her joining that excellent pianist Joseph Middleton to offer an exquisite bouquet of flower songs.
Roses take precedence, and Purcell's Sweeter than Roses, dressed up by Benjamin Britten, creates a certain frisson with Sampson's historically informed singing set against Middleton's resonantly modern piano. Schumann's vision of a snowdrop is so moving that one might hope that spring would stay right away, while there is a winning strain of mischievousness running through a Richard Strauss poppy song. For some, the "find" may be the languorous post-Debussian world of Lili Boulanger's lilacs.
A number of pieces are less bloom-specific. Sampson catches just the right mix of the becalmed and bizarre for Poulenc's Fleurs and is suitably wry in a Victor Hugo dialogue between a butterfly and a flower, set to music by Faure.
Occasionally, in this imaginatively put-together collection, the required mood is not quite captured. Richard Strauss' Das Rosenband seems to need just a little more vernal richness, and Chabrier's final salute to the Kingdom of the Flowers, begs for a flamboyance closer to the world of cabaret.
Mozart, Requiem (BIS)
Carolyn Sampson, Fleurs (BIS)
Verdict: Japanese master swaps Bach for Mozart and an English soprano roves through a European flower garden.