Maria Bengtsson / Bertrand de Billy / Lausanne Chamber Orchestra

Beethoven: Overture Leonore; Ah! Perfido!; Cherubini: Symphony; Vous voyez de vos fills

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On its face, this MDG album of early Romantic works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Luigi Cherubini should be primarily about its orchestral music, the Leonore Overture No. 1 and the Symphony in D major. However, the vocal selections deserve more immediate attention, due to the marvelous singing of soprano Maria Bengtsson, who gives this program the special energy and charisma that are missing from the orchestral music. Beethoven's overture and Cherubini's symphony receive meticulous performances from Bertrand de Billy and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, who are remarkably elegant and polished in their period interpretations. But Bengtsson's performances of Beethoven's scene and aria, "Ah! perfido," and Cherubini's aria from Medée, "Vous voyez de vos fils" create the real magic of the program, and listeners would be right to listen to these tracks first. Thanks to the audiophile recording, her singing has clarity and presence, and MDG's unprocessed recording captures her voice with a natural ambience and no background distractions. While the program seems unbalanced because the length of the symphony makes the first three selections seem less significant, the vocal works more than make up for their shortness, and Bengtsson's singing is the most memorable aspect of this enjoyable SACD.

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