Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 04/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even the Emperor's Nightingale never sang more sweetly than Emma Kirkby in 1984, in her vocal prime, when she recorded these resounding anthems of joy. Listeners unfamiliar with "historically informed" performances like this one may wonder why Emma sounds different from other sopranos they have heard. What such a listener might notice first is the absence of sustained vibrato. Singers of the early 20th Century were taught that a constant vibrato was basic to a beautiful tone. Such was not the case in Mozart's time or before. The glorious vibrato of an aspiring diva is exactly what many people find comical and unnatural in classical music, and they have a point. Vibrato exaggerates the mannerism of highly-trained singing. Kirby has a secure control of vibrato, which she uses not as a buffer for tuning but as an ornament for expression. She is capable of holding a vibrato-free tone in perfect tuning in any pitch of her vocal range, at any dynamic, and she proves it on this CD. She can dissolve a semitone trill into an aetherial vibrato, or the reverse. Emma's vibrato is never a "warble". Warbles are for lesser birds. This ability of hers to produce a natural, unaffected tone while at the same time managing the highly unnatural gymnastics of Baroque/Rococo vocal music is what people perceive as "purity" in her voice. And what a lovely voice she has! It's the combination of a beautiful voice with disciplined technique that has made her a super-star of Early Music.
Mozart's wife and sister-in-law were both virtuosic sopranos who may well have sounded rather like Emma Kirkby, but surprisingly the compositions on this CD were not intended for them. Instead some of these pieces were written explicitly for male sopranos - castrati - and it's interesting to note that other reviewers have remarked that Kirby sounds like a gifted boy soprano. Mozart wrote the Exultate Jubilate for Venanzio Rauzzini, a Venetian castrato who became young Wolfgang's close friend while Mozart was preparing his early opera Lucio Silla for performance in Milan. Rauzzini sang the lead in that opera, and clearly his operatic technique is reflected in the dramatic qualities of Mozart's motet. The other three motets recorded here are also products of Mozart's teenage genius at its most exuberant.
Christopher Hogwood does a fine job of building the orchestral and choral pedastal for Kirby's virtuosity. His Academy of Ancient Music uses original instruments indeed; the list of players and their instruments in the booklet shows that all but two of the violins and all the winds except the horns were made in Mozart's lifetime or earlier. Don't expect Hogwood's band to sound primitive, however. Already in 1984, mastery of historic instruments was fully mature. No allowances need to be made; tuning is flawless.
If I search for one word to describe this music and this performance, that word would be "thrilling." Don't miss it!"
John E. Harrington | anywhere, USA | 02/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do not buy this album at the gouge-prices of Amazon sellers, which, as of this writing, range from 25 to 45 dollars! This album is currently available as an import from Decca Eloquence for about $12.
If you respond to Kirkby's elegant voice, which has the character almost of a boy soprano, you will love this album. This Exsultate Jubilate is a slight variant of the familiar staple. Oboes are replaced with flutes and the words are slightly altered, but these changes are minor. Kirkby's angelic soprano sails through the work with effortless skill and a beauty that will have you listening with rapt attention to every note. The three rarities included, the Ego interest and the two Reginas, are real gems, especially the charming Regina K. 108, which alone would be worth the price."