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GRAMOPHONE (05/2013)
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Code-barres / Barcode: 0028947852421 (ID295)

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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Richard Wigmore

Belying the stereotyped image of Russian sopranos, the 23 -year-old Julia Lezhneva fields a voice of bell-like purity, even throughout its compass, immaculately fluent in coloratura. Her first solo disc, of Rossini arias (7/11), revealed her vocal flair, if not yet any special gift for characterisation. While she is still inclined to be consonant-shy, Lezhneva’s particular gifts are ideally attuned to the repertoire on this new disc. These sacred vocal concertos are high-class show-off music, designed to dazzle and astonish. Encouraged by the dangerously combustible strings of Il Giardino Armonico, Lezhneva brings fearless attack and devil-may-care virtuosity to the opening of Vivaldi’s In furore iustissimae irae, where, as she puts it in a booklet interview, ‘the voice imitates a mad violin’. In the swaggering aria that launches Handel’s Saeviat tellus (more familiar from its reincarnation in Apollo e Dafne) she relishes her role as a surrogate trumpet hurling proud defiance at the forces of Hades. She is dulcet in the ravishing central nocturne — which Handel recycled in Agrippina — and in the final ‘Alleluia’ vindicates a delirious tempo wit the pearling grace of her coloratura.

The rarity here is the amiably galant motet by Nicola Porpora, one-time rival of Handel in London, mentor of the young Haydn in Vienna. ‘Porpora’s music fits my voice like Chopin fits a pianist’s hands,’ proclaims Lezhneva in the booklet. True to her word, she trills and pirouettes her way with coltish eagerness through Porpora’s elegant fripperies. After so much balletic delicacy, she then finds a fuller, richer tone — and a real sense of jubilation — for the outer movements of Mozart’s Exsultate,jubilate. In the slow central aria she distils a touching innocence with the instrumental purity of her soft singing, complete with flutey high notes. Though Il Giardino Armonico’s punchy, adrenalin fuelled playing may disconcert some in Mozart, they vividly complement a singer who rivals the young Bartoli in high-octane virtuosity.


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