Christina Johnston

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Blessing Review

by James Manheim

Some of the promotional text connected with this album ("I have wanted to create an album of beautiful classical music for more than I can remember") suggests that soprano Christina Johnston is a pop singer venturing into classical music, but in fact Johnston is an actual British-trained soprano, now resident in the Czech Republic. The album is quite a bit better than that type of implication might lead you to expect. What has attracted buyers is Johnston's unique voice. It's smoky in the middle range, and rather miraculously clear at the top. The effect is on full display in the "Laudate Dominum" from Mozart's Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, K. 339, and it's haunting enough that the Czech president, among others, is said to be a fan. Johnston isn't really up to the more athletic numbers, such as "Der Hölle Rache" or "Juliet's Waltz Song" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, but the program is enlivened by the inclusion of some unusual encore-type numbers, such as the piece called Caccini's Ave Maria by the Russian guitarist/composer (and forger) Vladimir Vavilov (not by Caccini at all), and the title track, originally an opera-flavored work written and sung by Swedish pop singer Myrra Malmberg. Ultimately, though, it's the offbeat voice quality that carries this album, and sampling the music is likely to tell you what you need to know as a potential buyer.

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