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CLASSICAL  May 2008

CLASSICAL May 2008

Subject:

Lorraine in Spain

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 9 May 2008 20:24:56 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (77 lines)

SPANISH LOVE SONGS

*  Songs by Granados,  Turina, Rodrigo, Montsalvatge,  Mompou, Roussel,
Ravel, Chabrier, Wolf, Schumann,  MorenoTorroba, Sondheim, and others

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo)
Joseph Kaiser (tenor)
Steven Blier (piano)
Michael  Barrett (piano)
Bridge 9228  Total time: 67:47

Summary for the Busy Executive: A great idea, intelligently carried out.

Spain has occupied a mythic place in the European imagination, a little
like the Old West in the American one.  It certainly caught the attention
of pre-Romantics like Mozart or echt-Romantics like Byron, both of whom
seized on Don Juan.  Yet despite the efforts of such Spanish writers as
Yradier, a songwriting genius at hitting the Spanish idiom (Bizet mistook
one of his pieces for a folk song and threw it into Carmen), most "Spanish"
songs came from writers in France, Germany, and Russia.  Schumann has a
marvelous, Liebeslieder-Walzer-type cycle called Spanisches Liederspiel
as well as a more conventional cycle Spanische Liebeslieder.  Hugo Wolf,
as was his habit, set an entire book of poems in his Spanisches Liederbuch
cycle.  It's a bit disconcerting to come across a reference to the Fluss
Guadalquivir, let me tell you.  Of the long infatuation of French composers
with Spain, one need mention only Carmen.  The great Spanish art song
written by Spaniards happened a little later (leaving aside centuries
of zarzuela for a moment), with the awakening of Spanish musical
nationalism.

Highlights of the disc include Yradier's classic "La paloma," Lieberson's
heartbreaking rendition of Granados's "El mirar de la maja," Kaiser's
Faure-like reading of de Grignon's "Larira-Abril," green and alive as
Spring.  We don't get a one-size-fits-all Spanish, either, but a scrupulous
regard for the different regions.  The Moorish influence in the south
of Spain is well-represented by the wailing of Turina's "Farruca" and
of two excerpts from Rodrigo's Cuatro canciones sefardies.  Vocally,
Lieberson scores her considerable best with a vocalise arrangement of
Ravel's Habanera and dramatically with a shattering account of Wolf's
"Komm, O Tod, von Nacht umgeben." I'm usually not that big on Wolf's
songs, since they often strike me as so much minor Wagnerian noodling
around, but Lieberson (and I should also mention her collaborator Steven
Blier) make me care.

Then there's the stuff that's just pure fun: a vocal arrangement of
Chabrier's Espana and two zarzuela excerpts -- one from Moreno-Torroba's
Lucia Fernando and Pablo Luna's "De Espana vengo" from El nino judio.
The last two typify the zarzuela repertoire: melodic gems that instantly
call Spain to mind.  We even get an excerpt from Sondheim's Company --
the satiric duet "Barcelona," where a narcissist Bobby practices mind
games on a stewardess to get her to ditch her job (a flight to Barcelona)
for a few more minutes in bed.  Lieberson and Kaiser walk a delicate
line among pathos, humor, and sharp insight into character.

This CD represents, in effect, another memorial to the late Lorraine
Hunt Lieberson.  A project to produce a studio recording of this repertoire
failed to materialize, due to conflicting schedules.  We have here a
live performance from a Caramoor Festival.  It's not the attendant
audience noises -- the coughs, the whispers, the squirming in the seats
-- that get to me, but that Lieberson sings at less than her best, an
off-night.  She's slightly under pitch at the start of the recital and
less focused throughout.  Nevertheless, as always, she communicates like
a Vulcan mind-meld, and her interpretations are gorgeously detailed.
Joseph Kaiser is in better voice, but interpretively rougher.  Nevertheless,
in a few years he has a fair chance to become a really marvelous Lieder
singer.  He has both taste and an ability to dramatize the situation of
a song, to place himself as the "teller of the tale." Barrett and Blier
have been lovers of song and explorers of its byways for years.  Their
enthusiasm infects you.

Steve Schwartz

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