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GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2018
There’s also an ideal balance between sophistication and rawness, a certain neutrality of interpretation that will bear repeated listening but doesn’t betray the gritty roots of the music.
As Schleiermacher explains in a generous booklet essay, the songs were written with a variety of accompaniments in mind, but he brings them all to fiery life at the piano. MDG’s sound is excellent. One real shame is that the texts are only in German. It would be a shame if that fact put anyone off this fascinating and hugely enjoyable disc. Hugo Shirley (8/17)
Fauré ‘The Complete Songs, Vol 2’ La chanson d’Ève, Op 95a. Shylock, Op 57b. Rêve d’amour, Op 5 No 2c. Hymne, Op 7 No 2c. Puisqu’ici-bas toute âme, Op 10 No 1d. Tarantelle, Op 10 No 2d. Aubade, Op 6 No 1e. Barcarolle, Op 7 No 3f. Notre amour, Op 23 No 2g. Le secret, Op 23 No 3g. Le pays des rêves, Op 39 No 3h. Trois Mélodies, Op 85b. Le plus doux chemin, Op 87 No 1i. Le ramier, Op 87 No 2b. Vocalises – No 7j; No 22g L’auroreh dg Lorna Anderson, dhJanis Kelly sops aSarah Connolly, jAnn Murray mezs iIestyn Davies counterten eBen Johnson ten cJohn Chest, f Nigel Cliffe, bThomas Oliemans bars Malcolm Martineau pf Signum F SIGCD472 (69’ • DDD • T/t)
The second instalment of Malcolm Martineau’s survey of Fauré’s songs is exceptionally beautiful, both in choice of material and quality of performance. The format replicates that of its predecessor (A/16): three sets or cycles – La chanson d’Ève (1910), the songs from Shylock (1889) and the Op 85 group (1902) – are juxtaposed with songs that span Fauré’s entire career, shared between a carefully selected line-up of singers, nine in this instance. There are some lovely rarities here, notably the early Baudelaire setting ‘Hymne’ (1870), and a couple of duets, teetering on the virtuoso, that Fauré wrote in 1873 for Pauline Viardot’s daughter Marianne, briefly his fiancée, and her sister Claire.
Two singers new to the series are heard in the main works. Sarah Connolly’s performance of La chanson d’Ève is arguably the finest since Dawn Upshaw’s – ecstatic yet restrained, and superbly controlled, both dynamically and emotionally, as Eve’s awareness of the imperfections of Eden begins to register. Baritone Thomas Oliemans – dark-voiced, very elegant – tackles Shylock and Op 85. The Shylock Serenade blends swagger with sensuality: the ‘Madrigal’, addressed to Portia by the Prince of Aragon, is rightly more artfully poised and formal. His reined-in passion impresses in Op 85, where the Symbolist texts can seem dangerously overwrought.
The remaining singers are all familiar from the first disc. There’s accomplished duetting from Janis Kelly and Lorna Anderson: elsewhere, Kelly’s ability to sustain high, hovering lines is heard to advantage in the exquisite ‘Le pays des rêves’, while Anderson, with her warm middle registers, does wonders with the reflective ‘Le secret’. John Chest, whose singing was a real revelation in Vol 1, is similarly excellent here. Ben Johnson and Iestyn Davies only get one song each, though both are highlights. Martineau’s understanding of Fauré’s piano-writing, in which less means more and virtuosity is avoided in favour of nuance, remains impeccable. Tim Ashley (7/17) La chanson d’Ève – selected comparison: Upshaw, Kalisch (2/05) (NONE) 7559 79812-2
‘Lost is my Quiet’ Mendelssohn Three Duets, Op 77. Six Duets, Op 63 – No 1, Ich wollt’ meine Lieb’ ergösse sich; No 3, Gruss; No 5, Volkslied; No 6, Maiglöckchen und die Blümelein. Scheidend, Op 9 No 6. Neue Liebe, Op 19a No 4 Purcell If music be the food of love (third version), Z379c. Lost is my quiet for ever, Z502. Music for a while, Z583. Sound the trumpet, Z323 No 3. The Maid’s Last Prayer or Any Rather Than Fail, Z601 – No, resistance is but vain. Oroonoko: Celemene, pray tell me, Z584 (all realised Britten) Quilter Drink to me only. It was a lover and his lass. Love calls through the summer night. Love’s Philosophy, Op 3 No 1. Music, when soft voices die, Op 25 No 5. Weep ye no more, sad fountains Schumann Drei Duette, Op 43. Aufträge, Op 77 No 5. Der Einsiedler, Op 83 No 3. Nachtlied, Op 96 No 1. So wahr die Sonne scheinet, Op 37 No 12. Stille Liebe, Op 35 No 8 Carolyn Sampson sop Iestyn Davies counterten Joseph Middleton pf BIS F Í BIS2279 (79’ • DDD/DSD • T/t)
The billing promises much, and the performances certainly deliver. Colleagues in Baroque oratorio and opera for nigh on a decade, Carolyn Sampson and Iestyn Davies make a symbiotic partnership in these assorted duets, their tone (not least their control of vibrato) and style ideally matched. They are compelling interpreters, too, with an infectious sense of shared enjoyment in the Purcell-Britten ‘Sound the trumpet’ (Sampson’s whooping, unscripted octave leap guaranteed to provoke a smile) and the fumbling adolescent eroticism of ‘Celemene’. Here and elsewhere Joseph Middleton fully savours the ingenuity and extravagance of Britten’s piano realisations. Amid the duets, Sampson sings ‘If music be the food of love’ with an easy fluidity and grace. Davies floats an ethereal line at the opening of ‘Music for a while’ (shades here of Alfred Deller), then vividly dramatises the dark central section evoking Alecto’s serpents and whip. This favourite song is not merely soothing, all the more so in Britten’s arrangement. Mendelssohn and Schumann would doubtless have raised an eyebrow at the notion of a falsettist – a breed all but unknown in 19th-century Germany – in the Biedermeier salon. Countertenors who have ventured into Lieder are apt to sound flustered or petulant when they strive for passion. Iestyn Davies avoids this trap, choosing slow, reflective solos that display his otherworldly purity of tone and serene legato. Mendelssohn’s elegiac barcarolle ‘Scheidend’ and Schumann’s quietly majestic ‘Nachtlied’ – more chromatically troubled than Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s famous valedictory poem – are highlights, as is Carolyn Sampson’s fleet, smiling ‘Aufträge’, abetted by Middleton’s diaphanous accompaniment. The duets – superior salon music – are all enchanting. With Middleton always an animated partner, the singers blend mellifluously in all those caressing thirds and sixths, with refined phrasing and an unselfconscious charm, not least in the shimmering excitement of Mendelssohn’s ‘Maiglöckchen’, in his fairy scherzo vein, and Schumann’s blithe quasifolk song ‘Schön Blümlein’.
Euphonious charm is the default mode in the solos and duets by Roger Quilter, whose pleasures, like those of his French contemporary Reynaldo Hahn, are modest but durable. Even after several hearings I’m not quite convinced by the pairing of soprano and countertenor (rather than tenor) in the waltz duet from Quilter’s operetta Julia. But the other duets and solos, again, are a delight: in the calm intensity Davies brings to ‘Music, when soft voices die’, Sampson’s touching simplicity in ‘Drink to me only with thine eyes’, and her exuberance and ardour in ‘Love’s Philosophy’, with the voice soaring gloriously to the song’s climax.
42 GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2018
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