- In coelo stelle clare, motet for soprano & strings
This is the first release of Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva on the major Decca label, and it is illustrative of the growing importance of Baroque vocal repertory that a young singer looking to broaden her renown would choose not only Baroque music, not only period performance, but the unusual repertory of the solo motet at that. These were virtuoso pieces, very operatic, that had sacred rather than secular texts. The tradition was rounded off in the late 18th century by the young Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate, K. 165," and Lezhneva gives a fresh performance of that well-worn work. Her voice is unusual, with an oboe-like texture that's quite agile when the going gets rough. The Mozart and the little-known and sort of pastoral-spiritual "In coelo stelle clare" of Haydn's teacher Nicola Porpora. This piece fits Lezhneva's voice beautifully, and it is sufficiently unusual to recommend the album all by itself. In the High Baroque motets by Handel and Vivaldi that open the program, the news is less consistently good; the slow movements display Lezhneva's voice to its quite haunting best advantage, but in the high-volume arias, with the Baroque orchestra Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini sparking and flashing away, Lezhneva is a bit underpowered in music that might have been sung originally by a castrato. None of this is to say that the situation might not change in a few years, or that Lezhneva, a student of Kiri Te Kanawa, might not emerge as her true heir. At the very least she's something new and different for Russian singing.