Marilyn Horne Martin Katz In Salzburg 1979Marilyn Horne
Live in Salzburg

with Martin Katz, piano

Vai, 2002

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Live in Salzburg is not among the most famous recordings of the American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and it is quite rare to find, but I intend to dedicate a post to it, since it is a wonderful testimony of the singer’s vocal power.

As the title suggests, the album was recorded live during a recital in Salzburg in 1979 and contains a large and varied program, which sometimes seems disorderly put together (the two baroque arias from Orlando furioso and Semele are placed before and after some Lieder by Schubert), but which fully highlights Horne’s ability.

The first aria is reckless and is nothing but Nel profondo cieco mondo from Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso (to make immediately clear that the recital is sung by a fearless artist), that Horne sings with tremendous energy and skill, even “assaulting” the awful coloratura. The tone changes with the next four Lieder by Schubert which, with their less virtuosic character, confirm that the previous aria has been chosen on purpose to impress the listener with an overwhelming debut, letting the other skills to define little by little, with no hurry.

The Lieder allow Horne much more than a theatrical trick, because she shows off some qualities that do not always have a way to emerge completely in the baroque repertoire and in Rossini, where it is more common to listen to her: here the singer is no longer the brilliant primadonna, but she proves to be a reflective and thoughtful interpreter, able to respond with great sensitivity to the intimate character of these pieces, in which she manages to convey great emotion and sweetness.

Other songs follow: an aria from Semele (Iris, Hence away), three chansons by Bizet, seven Spanish folk songs and three encores. I cannot linger on their individual features, because I may make the review dull, but I will just remember how, in different ways and shades, Horne’s extraordinary and contagious verve makes each piece unique and unmistakable. I remember the contrast that is created between two of the encores, the so-called “toast” from Lucrezia Borgia (Il segreto per esser felici), in which Horne infuses new liveliness, and the aria of the mezzo-soprano from Samson et Dalila (Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix), which is delicate and gentle.

The piano accompaniment of Martin Katz contrasts in some ways with the positive figure of the singer, since it always appears a bit gloomy. Apart from this, you will not be disappointed by this recording.

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