lenneke ruiten, finghin collins & the rte NSO
National concert hall
Fresh from his success at the New Ross Piano Festival, where he is artistic director, Finghin Collins comes to the RTE National Symphony Orchestra -- with which he is associate artist -- as soloist and conductor.
His NCH programme is devoted to Mozart in several forms, including a number of the composer's concert arias.
Mozart wrote more than 50 of them for singers whom he admired or loved, including a sister-in-law, or for contemporary prima donnas.
Some were intended as interpolations into other composers' operas or 'alternatives' in his own style while a selection were 'stand-alone' pieces. Most are fiendishly difficult.
In her research, Dutch soprano Lenneke Ruiten has unearthed several gems and, as she possesses a secure and highly flexible vocal range, presents them in the best possible light.
However, a little goes a long way, and for all Ruiten's brilliance and incisive sense of drama I cannot warm to them. It is like admiring something in a museum showcase but forgetting it on moving to the next precious 'objet d'art'.
Designed to test intonational prowess and interpretative powers, Ruiten sails through 'Bella mia fiamma, addio K 528' with flying colours.
'Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! K 418' has her not only engaging vocal acrobatics with unfailing conviction but has NSO oboist Adrian Wilson no less artistically nimble.
Requiring extraordinary breath control for its florid excesses, 'Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle K 538' is sung here with disarming ease.
An unusually extended piano obbligato adds extra colour to 'Ch'io mi scordi di te K 505'. Marvellously played by Collins, the aria finds Ruiten's coloratura phrases superbly fluid.
Pitted between these vocal pyrotechnics is one of those technically challenging Mozartean treasures -- the 'B flat K 450 Piano Concerto'. Collins sets a brisk pace in both the opening and closing allegros while his beautifully flowing central Andante is pressed gently forward.
The RTE NSO's chamber proportions are further reduced for a 'wild card', innovatory addition to the programme.
With lighting effects conveying controlled mayhem, Alfred Schnittke's 'Moz-Art a la Haydn' for 13 strings is based on various Mozart fragments.
Sounding deliberately like drunken cafe musicians, the instrumentalists, including soloists Alan Smale and Sebastian Liebig, change places, give the odd wave and clomp about. Allegedly humorous, its comedy borders on the macabre.