Ein Festliches Konzert mit Lucia Popp
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Kurt Eichhorn, conductor
Ein Festliches Konzert mit Lucia Popp (“A Festival Concert with Lucia Popp”) is an enchanting solo album by the wonderful soprano Lucia Popp. The Slovak singer interprets here arias by Mozart, Handel, Giordani, Schubert, Grieg and Strauss with the refined and discreet accompaniment of Kurt Eichhorn, who leads the Münchner Rundfunkorchester.
It is difficult for me to review this album because I cannot praise it as much as I wanted. It was a happy choice to begin with three arias (two sacred) by Mozart, because Lucia Popp is one of the best singers that this repertoire ever had and therefore it is exactly in this compositions that her vocal means stand out at their best.
Listen to the Mozartian sacred music sung by such a marvellous singer becomes something like a mystical experience. In Laudate Dominum and Exultate, jubilate, Popp shines with her excellent vocal line and her freshness that only the absolute technical control and musical command assure. Only the way she says “jubilate” make you believe there is really something to rejoice. As for Mozart’s last aria, Non temer, amato bene from Mitridate, it is long and passionate and Popp’s singing is plain and does not use any artifice to colour the aria, which nonetheless is a little masterpiece.
Handel’s two arias (Ombra mai fu from Xerxes and Es balut die Nacht from Julius Caesar) are also an experience, because they are both inspired and gentle in their slow, delicate melodies, while the emotion Popp infuses in Grieg’s Våren and the sweetness in Caro mio ben are almost moving.
What astonished me the most, anyway, was Schubert’s Ave Maria. I listened to this composition so many times that I have come to consider it overrated, but I rediscovered it here thanks to Popp’s art. You may call a singer a “great singer” when he or she finds something new to express in a famous piece which seems to have exhausted its potentialities and this is exactly the case. The grace, the delicacy and the tenderness of Popp are simply disarming and create a spell around Ave Maria.
I dare to say that Ein Festliches Konzert confirms Lucia Popp as one of the loveliest sopranos of the XX century and one of the most careful, intelligent and fine singers that ever existed.