International Record Review, April 2010
This is the first recording that I can think of which concentrates on Mozart, Gluck and Berlioz. At whom is it aimed? It could be admirers of one, two or all of these composers, but I contend it will attract mainly collectors who want to add an operatic recital by Andrew Kennedy to their shelves. By printing the tenor’s name in larger lettering than that of each composer, Signum’s aim seems to be just that. Why then are two overtures included? Many operatic arias were available, and a running-time of 62 minutes (52 without the overtures) leaves room for further choices.
Kennedy’s earlier recordings have been of songs rather than opera, including an enjoyable Signum disc of Vaughan Williams, Gurney and Venables (fascinating contributions by the last named) which I reviewed in February 2008. He is no stranger to opera: the brief biography mentions Nemorino, Tom Rakewell and Mozart’s Ottavio, Tito and Tamino among his roles.
Despite my disapproval of the inclusion on a disc called ‘Andrew Kennedy sings arias … ‘ of two overtures (both played with style, freshness and vitality by the young members of Simon Over’s Southbank Sinfonia) I received much pleasure from listening to this CD. Whatever attributes songs demonstrate in a singer, they do not often call for the upper range of a tenor to be displayed, and those who have heard Kennedy only in the song repertoire may be surprised at how good his top is. ‘0 blonde Ceres’, whose wide leaps render this an awkward aria to sing, is one piece in which it can be judged.
The programme begins with the short martial aria from Iphigenie en Aulide: trumpets blaring, voice flaring. Orpheus’s famous aria, here in the 1774 Paris version, requires the singer to follow a smooth line, which Kennedy does to winning effect before unleashing a greater vocal force for ‘Divinites des grandes ames’ from the other Iphigenie.
He travels through the divisions of Belmonte’s ‘Ich baue ganz’ without resorting to the vocal crutch of aspirating to assist him. He has appeared as Tito at the Frankfurt Opera, and his singing of the emperor’s three arias here makes me want to hear him in a complete performance of my favourite Mozart opera. He recognizes the differences in the arias, from the sweet opening of ‘Del piu sublime soglio’ to Tito’s philosophy in ‘Se all’ impero’, in which he states that he does not wish to rule with a hard heart. It is not by way of a wide-ranging assortment of vocal hues that Kennedy varies his singing but more by differentiating weight, touch and pressure.
Lopas’s praise of Ceres needs his lightish tone, both for its verbal content and its musical line. It is followed by Benedict’s frisky aria ‘Ah! je vais I’aimer’, just the first two lines of which reveal it as obviously by Berlioz. Kennedy catches its infectious lilt.
A rarer aria, particularly in a recital, is that from Lelia. This is a testing piece, requiring bigger tone. Kennedy does not disappoint, bringing a fullness of sound that is not always associated with him. The recital ends with a very fine performance of Faust’s ‘Merci, doux crepuscule!’, taken rather slowly but to great effect. In the first part, Kennedy caresses the music with sweet half-voice and long breaths, and then his sound swells in conjunction with Faust’s expression of passion.
While regretting that there are not more arias, I give high marks to the intelligent and ear-pleasing singing on this CD, on which both voice and orchestra are well captured.