Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What from others sounds like machine-gun fire, in her throat becomes music, 8 April 2013
This review is from: Alleluia (Audio CD)
I recently had the pleasure of listening to Julia Lezhneva in a London recital. Meeting her public afterwards Lezhneva was calm and relaxed, with a big smile; in the performance itself the smile was in place, but one had a strong impression of complete focus on the task in hand. I hear both these qualities, relaxation and concentration, throughout the performances on this disc. Lezhneva's concentration is hardly surprising; here is some of the most difficult vocal music written in the 18th century (or any other era); but her aura of relaxation, even of pleasure in singing, is utterly astonishing. I know of no other singer on record (except possibly Emma Kirkby) who when tackling the extremes of Handel and Vivaldi does not sound at least slightly fearful (you can hear their voices tightening as they reach for the end of a phrase) or if not fearful, then defiant (how dare you suppose that I can't really manage this stuff!).

It's agility I'm talking about, that quality that Handel and his contemporaries prized so much in singers, the ability to control scales, thirds, arpeggios, and ornaments at speed. Lezhneva has this gift to an uncanny degree, as we hear throughout the recording. What from others sounds like machine-gun fire, in her throat becomes music. Happily she has also here given herself the opportunity to demonstrate other important qualities, notably breath control and tuning. Both are perfect in the mesmerising "o nox dulcis", the slow aria in the Handel, which I predict will turn out to be Classic FM moment on this disc. Lezhneva is only 23, but what we hear is a finished artist of prodigious skill; and that she has persuaded Decca to release a "debut" album of mostly obscure music suggests that within the tiny smiling person is a thoughtful and determined personality. Need I recommend this disc further?

No indeed, but I will indulge in word of caution - not to Julia Lezhneva, who I suspect understands the issues very well - but to us her audience. We should take care what we expect of her. Three items in this programme are showpieces for castrato singers with vast ranges and huge power. Lezhneva can match them, and probably beat them, in agility and control, but her voice is quite different to theirs. In the Vivaldi, Handel and Mozart she has to push herself well beyond her comfortable range (her top I suspect is naturally about a"). In "Exultate, Jubilate" she also colours her voice with a patina of vibrato. I understand why (and some may prefer this "Mozart voice") but I fear the day when the vibrato can't be switched off. We already have excellent "vibrant" singers a-plenty; Lezhneva's "dolce", her natural sweet sound, is much rarer in our day, and much to be prized.

She is a lyric soprano, with a basic sound is quite like that of the young Joan Sutherland. Her obvious fach (at the moment) is Handel's writing for female sopranos (Faustina Bordoni and Anna Strada for instance), or Rossini's lighter soprano roles; or if Mozart, then his music for Nancy Storace, not Aloysia Weber. Julia Lezhneva has already recorded three baroque operas. Let's hope that Decca let her record plenty more such music.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Apr 2013 11:40:10 BDT
Paul W says:
This CD has increased dramatically overnight. It was under £11.00 yesterday. How come?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2013 16:36:40 BDT
C. Wake says:
You'll have to ask Amazon, I'm afraid. I don't do their pricing. If it's any consolation, I bought it at the concert and it cost £15! CW

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2013 22:08:16 BDT
Keen Reader says:
Can I just thank you for your wonderful music reviews - I've only just discovered your reviews through a cd I was looking at of Handel arias, and flicked through all your other reviews. They're in depth and thoroughly thought through, and extremely interesting. Great stuff; I shall be looking out for more of what you've been listening to!

I entered a competition to win this cd of Julia Lezhneva; unfortunately I didn't win, but heard over the week of the competition many snippets of this cd, and I was hugely impressed with her voice and approach to these arias. Thanks for the great review.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Apr 2013 09:40:52 BDT
C. Wake says:
Thank you for your kind comment. I mostly do the reviews for my own benefit; I find it helpful to summarise my thoughts when I have spend time listening to a performance or reading a book. CW

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2013 12:43:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Apr 2013 12:44:04 BDT
MWilliams says:
Did you hear that appallingly patronising review of this "immature" and "ill-advised" singer on Radio 3 Record Review this Sat? The female know-all thought JL had a long way to go, I thought it was one of the loveliest voices I'd heard!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Apr 2013 20:13:52 BDT
Keen Reader says:
Oh really!? Some interviewers can be extremely patronising. Sometimes I think they do it just to get a reaction. I agree that JL has a wonderful voice.
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Review Details

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4.6 out of 5 stars (14 customer reviews)
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C. Wake
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Location: West Country

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