Top positive review
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Light, well-sprung Mozart, beautifully sung
on 22 January 2012
This is the kind of recording we took for granted forty years ago, although the advent of the young Kiri Te Kanawa, still in her mid-twenties was by no means a routine event. I remember a little later after this disc appeared getting a signed copy of her Mozart recital LP and thinking I'd never heard a lovelier voice; she was made for Mozart, as her peerless Countess proves.
However, she is not the only reason for buying this CD: the sound is excellent and Colin Davis is already requiring a period lightness from his musicians without any of the attendant excessive HIP disadvantages. The LSO play with a freshness and spring wholly apt to the joyful abandon of this music and nothing is treacly or laboured, even when a graver demeanour is in order, such as in the dignified but flowing "Ave Verum". The regular team of supporting soloists is on hand, including the grand, distinctive bass of Gwynne Howell.
My esteemed fellow-reviewer Bernard O'Hanlon finds Kiri to sound "flat" in her showpiece "Exsultate", by which I gather he means not flat in pitch - which she isn't - but in tonal refulgence and expression. I have listened again and again and compared her with similar-voiced Sylvia McNair but I cannot hear it; both are delightful. I think he might be put off by the fact that her vibrato is fast and light - usually a very attractive thing in sopranos too often afflicted by a wobble - and because she never seems to need to lean into her tone to carry the note, so it all sounds very effortless - which it is. He asserts that she sounds better in her solo "Laudate Dominum" in the Vespers and it's true her tone is marginally more vibrant there. Throughout, her pure, flickering trill and fluting top notes - including a superb top C to conclude the "Alleluia" - are evidence of a singer whose technique must already have been the envy of her peers and which explains why she continued to sing beautifully for another forty years.
Not all the music here is the same top-drawer quality as the better-known numbers but it's all is as skilfully crafted as you would expect from Mozart and gems such as the soprano solos make the disc worth five stars by any measure.