The programme is an interesting one, though including Beethoven in a recital called German Romantic Arias might be thought to be stretching the definition a bit, and it’s good to see some rarer items are included amongst the well-known. Accompaniments are in the safe hands of the Staatskapelle Dresden under Sir Colin Davis and Mattilla might be considered to be at her mid-career peak when the disc was recorded in 2001, eighteen years after she was the first winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World at the age of 23.
Unfortunately the recital doesn’t really satisfy. I enjoyed most the scene from Euryanthe and Mendelssohn’s concert aria Infelice!, but this might have more to do with their unfamiliarity than anything else as I had little else to compare them to . In the more familiar items I found myself constantly thinking of versions by other artists. One or two moments of smudged coloratura apart, Mattila gets round the notes easily enough, but her singing can be a bit rigid and lacking in colour and her legato is not always perfect, nor does she ever illuminate a phrase or bring something personal to the piece she is singing in the way the greatest of the past have done. There is no sense of desperation in Leonore’s Abscheulicher! or radiance in the Komm, Hoffnung section, no real appreciation of the contrasting emotions in Ah perfido!. Agathe fares no better. There is no real poise and serenity, such as that achieved by Schwarzkopf, Grümmer or Janowitz. When Schwarzkopf sings Er ist’s in Leise, leise we register the change of expression, the quickening of the pulse, where here the moment passes almost unnoticed.
Commendably she sings Rezia’s Ocean, though mighty monster in English. It is more comfortably vocalised than Callas’s late recording, also in English, but Callas fills its pages with significance where Mattila just sings the notes. She conquers its tehcnical challenges, but makes little impression dramatically.
Something of a disappointment then and a disc that is probably making for the jettison pile