Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's collection of vocal solos (plus a few instrumental tracks) from the early Baroque, Lettere Amorose, "Love Letters," is a delight. The recital includes some familiar pieces like d'India's Cruda Amarilli, Monteverdi's Sì dolce è il tormento, and Sanz's giddy dance, Canarios, but consists largely of repertoire that's more obscure but no less engaging. Merula's lullaby chaconne Hor ch'è tempo di dormire is a jewel, gorgeously idiosyncratic and deeply emotional. Caccini's erotic Odi, Euterpe, 'I dolce canto could be mistaken for mature Monteverdi at his most mischievous, but it dates from 1601 or 1602, when Monteverdi was at an early stage in his career. A real standout of the album is Strozzi's L'Eraclito amoroso: Udite amanti, which alternates sections of extravagantly expressive recitative with a ravishingly lyrical chaconne. Kozená easily has the technique to make the music glow and the dramatic gifts to bring it movingly to life. Her sharply characterized interpretations of the songs make each of them seem as fully realized and potent as a short operatic scene. Her voice has the burnished warmth of a mezzo, but can gleam when she soars into her upper register, and throughout she maintains an exquisite purity. Private Musicke, an ensemble of plucked and bowed strings led by Pierre Pitzl, beautifully matches Kozená's performances with inventive, understated, and expressive accompaniments. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean and wonderfully realistic. This is an album that should have strong appeal for lovers of Baroque music, or anyone who loves exceptional singing.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Canzonetta spirituale sopra alla nanna: Hor ch'è tempo di dormire (Curtio precipitato et altri capricii, Libro secondo, 1638)