Sunhae Im / Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin

Orfeo(s): Italian & French Cantatas

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This might seem a specialist release with its unknown Baroque repertory, its rather specific concept, and a soprano who has done good work mostly in Germany, but is not widely known outside of that country and perhaps her native South Korea. But it's something of a sleeper that combines a program offering insights into the Baroque mind with a fine, graceful voice that makes a nice break from the hyper-athletic sopranos and countertenors who dominate the scene. The program draws several contrasts, and one of them is that between the melodic Italian and more ornate French secular cantata styles. Im is pleasant in both, but perhaps most effective in the cantatas by Rameau and Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, where her agility in the ornamentation is worth the price of admission by itself. The cantatas are also interesting in their approaches to the Orpheus story, which continued to exert a fascination all the way down to 20th century Brazil. Each librettist and composer takes up a different part of the story as representative of the whole, and the treatments range from lyrical with a hint of tragedy (Pergolesi, whose version should now receive more frequent performances) to intricately philosophical (Rameau). The questions raised here were the ones composers of the early 18th century wrestled with, and this release puts them across in a vivid way. Not a generalist release, certainly, but not a specialist one, either. The historical-instrument Akademie für alte Musik, Berlin stays largely out of Im's way, which is all to the good here.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Orfeo, cantata for soprano, strings & basso continuo
1 8:37
2 6:15
Orphée, cantata for soprano & chamber orchestra
3 2:26
4 4:11
5 6:27
6 3:12
L'Orfeo, cantata a voce sola con violini
7 1:43
8 5:10
9 2:32
10 6:00
11 2:16
12 3:24
Orphée, cantata for soprano & symphony
13 1:29
14 3:57
15 1:31
16 5:13
17 4:49
blue highlight denotes track pick