Simone Kermes, La Magnifica Comunità, Enrico Casazza
Sony Classical 888751113824
Music by Boësset, de Briçeño, Cesti, Dowland, J. Eccles, Lambert, Legrenzi, Manelli, Merula, Monteverdi, Purcell & B. Strozzi
This bears a resemblance to Magdalena Kožená’s ‘Lettere Amorose’, which I reviewed in these pages several months back. Both feature artist-driven choices of 17th-century songs and operatic excerpts, one common to both CDs, given with instrumental arrangements that are often none to fussy about appropriate style. Both are personality productions featuring a glamour cover, Simone Kermes’ showing her lying arranged in an alluring pose wearing a long white satin (I think) dress.
If I express a marginal preference for the Kermes there are two reasons. Firstly, it seems rather more structured as a programme, creating the impression that it was intended to build to a climax on the final item, an unfussy if not entirely idiomatic version of ‘Dido’s Lament’. It is a feeling enhanced by an interesting reminder of just how many of love’s complaints were voiced over an ostinato bass in the 17th century. More importantly, there is Kermes’ never less than whole-hearted commitment and that richly lustrous soprano, here at its best when keeping things simple, as in the intimacy of Antoine Boësset’s heartbroken ‘Frescos ayres del prado’ or Merula’s ‘Chi vuol ch’io m’innamori’, where Kermes floats her voice to magical effect.
The downside is accompanying arrangements that range from the innocent to the horrible. One or two tracks sound as if a particularly manic Leonardo García Alarcón has been let loose on them and if you’ve ever felt a desire to hear Dowland’s ‘If love’s a sweet passion’ with a counter melody played on the cornett, well, this is your chance. There is also the air of pretension that hangs over the whole project, best exemplified by the superfluous additional verses quoted in the singer’s introductions, many of them by Shakespeare or John Donne. Like Kožená’s CD, this is one for fans of the singer rather than the general EMR reader.