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Image © 2000 Virgin Records Ltd 

(22 January 2001) The second album by Isobel "Izzy" Cooper is entitled Ascolta (Virgin Records (UK) CDVE 951, 2000). The artist's debut album Libera Me soared to the top of the classical charts in early 2000 (review). Izzy's success led to a label change from Decca to Virgin Venture who are paying a lot closer attention to the artist. Stylistically similar to Emma Shapplin, Sarah Brightman, Filippa Giordano and Charlotte Church, the new album continues to explore the reaches of classical-contemporary crossover musical territories. The artist's official website is full of useful information, an insightful interview, additional photos and soundbites.

Now 25, Izzy began her love affair with music at the age of four. It was then that she picked up her first musical instrument, the recorder, and five years later she had worked through the entire recorder family and also began learning the piano, clarinet and flute. But it was her school choirmaster who spotted her vocal potential at the age of nine, which was to prove a turning point in her musical career. Under his nurturing hand,Izzy went on to gain a place at a specialist Arts Educational School, where she studied music, drama and dance but it was as a singer that she began to emerge.

Whilst still a student, Izzy was spotted and signed by Decca Records and found herself recording with the London Symphony Orchestra and leading producer Craig Leon, who had a track record of working with both classical and pop artists. Libera Me was recorded at Abbey Road Studios—a world away from Izzy's day job at the Virgin Megastore—and was a carefully crafted mixture of classical compositions and co-written original pieces setting the tone of her distinct style of rich tones and finels woven harmonies. It reached the No 1 spot in the classical charts within weeks of release and launched Izzy into the spotlight. Izzy was nominated at Best Female Artist in the inaugural Classical BRIT Awards and chosen to present Bryn Terfel with the Best Male Artist Award.

Again teamed with Craig Leon, the team began working on Izzy's second album at Abbey Road Studios after pouring over hundreds of different songs and arrangements before finalising the selection for Ascolta. The album contains unique renditions of classical arias by Doizetti, Borodin, Puccini, Dvorak, Bizet, Delibes, Monteverdi and Sibelius. In addition to the stunning title track, "Signore Ascolta," Izzy incorporated her own versions of the Celtic "The Lost Lady Found," "Down By The Sally Garden," "Lumi Miei Cari" and "Going Home". We especially enjoyed Izzy's multi-layered performance of the "Be Still My Soul" hymn and "Song of our Homeland" sung to the famous Borodin theme. Ascolta is certainly more richly produced than Libera Me yet it is mixed with Izzy's vocals way up, the way Musical Discoveries' readers prefer! Many of the tracks are recorded with English lyrics as well.

"Recording the second album was a fantastic experience, Izzy commented. "Not only did I have the support of a vibrant, less traditional record company in Virgin Venture, but I also had the confidence in working with Craig to record what I wanted to, regardless of whether it was conventional or not. It is invigorating to take a song or aria and be able to interpret it in completely your own way."

Izzy's albums are released in Europe however they remain imports to the United States. You can find further reviews and order Ascolta from amazon.co.uk here. Artwork accompanying the new compact disc incorporates stunning photography hich can be sampled at the artist's website. Worthy of significant exploration and a trans-Atlantic journey, we certainly think it is a must listen!

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