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Nicolae BRETAN (1887–1968)
Songs

Alexandru Agache (baritone), Martin Berkofsky (piano)
rec. at Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, U.K. 8 & 9 November 2005
texts and English translations included
NIMBUS NI 5810 [74:20]

Sound Sample - excerpt

Părăsit (Abandoned)





1. Pădurea (The Forest) [2:58]
2. Septembrie cu roze (September with Roses) [3:15]
3. Prea sus aţi fost! (So far above!) [3:12]
4. Linişte (Silence) [2:57]
5. Cucule, de ce nu vii? (Cuckoo, why don’t you return?) [2:32]
6. Cîntecul pugarului (Lament of the plow) [2:51]
7. Casa noastră (Our house) [2:41]
8. Fată mare (Fair Maiden) [2:44]
9. Mors magna (Mors Magna) [3:32]
10. Vin’ sub plopul (Come under the poplar) [3:10]
11. La groapa lui Laie (At the grave of Laie) [5:34]
12. Dorurile mele (My yearnings) [2:49]
13. Părăsit (Abandoned) [3:40]
14. Rea de plată (The reluctant debt payer) [2:06]
15. Pe dealul Feleacului (On the hill of Feleac) [3:32]
16. În fereastra dinspre mare (At the window on the sea) [2:31]
17. Şi dacă ramuri bat în geam (And if branches beat against the window)
18. Stelele-n cer (Stars in the sky) [3:52]
19. La steaua (Toward the star) [3:24]
20. Pe lîngă ploplii fără soţ (Where mateless poplars grow) [2:59]
21. Ş-acele dulci păreri de rău (And the sweet remorse) [2:02]
22. Pe aceeaşi ulicioară (On the same lane) [2:36]
23. Fragment din Scrisoarea IV (Excerpt from the Fourth Epistle) [2:40]
24. S-a stins Viaţa (‘Tis gone the life of Venice) [4:15]

Having heard the companion disc, sung by Ruxandra Donose (Nimbus NI 5809 review), I had eagerly been looking forward to hearing more of Nicolae Bretan’s songs. This issue just confirms what an individual voice the Hungarian born Romanian is in the field of Lieder. There are influences, but they are mainly from folksong, even though they can’t be labelled folkloristic. I thought I heard echoes, however faint, of Sibelius on the previous disc and I felt so again here, but this is more a general mood than a strict influence. What most of all is striking is how well they are written for the human voice. Of course Bretan was a singer himself and there is a photo of him, at the age of 76, singing one of his songs in both booklets. Dressed in white shirt, waistcoat and bow-tie, glass in hand, he radiates enjoyment and the music seems to flow effortlessly out of him. I get the same feeling when hearing the songs on these discs. It is true that Alexandru Agache is no longer in his first flush of youth and that he sometimes is a little strained. Even so the performer is so at one with the songs and that is surely the hallmark of a good composition.

I could refer readers to the first review for some comments on the songs, since the same comments apply here too. In several cases the two singers have chosen the same songs, which invites to comparison but more readily shows how well suited they are to these two quite different voices.

Agache, well known from the major opera houses as well as from numerous recordings, has been a leading interpreter of the central Verdian baritone roles for many years. The opening song, The Forest with its thundering piano accompaniment, is sung with all the power and dramatic involvement of a Macbeth or Count di Luna. But he is just as apt at conveying the beauty and the lyricism of many of these songs: inward and restrained in September with roses (tr. 2) or the soft singing in Silence (tr. 4). The fact is that when I had played the disc straight through I felt I wanted to replay it at once, which I think is the best assessment I could give it. Maybe it was that last song, the wonderful ‘Tis gone the life of Venice that triggered me for a new round.

I know I am repeating myself but it is always a special treat to hear singers performing in their mother-tongue. Since few non-Romanians master the language we have to be grateful that there are so many good singers from Romania around. We can only hope that more of them will champion Bretan’s songs.

Readers who feel they can only stretch themselves to one disc should start with Ms Donose’s, since her readings are even more assured than Agache’s – good though he is. Once hooked by the songs I am sure many will get Agache as well. He is well accompanied by the versatile Martin Berkofsky and the recording is excellent. This is another worthy collection of Nicolae Bretan’s songs.

Göran Forsling

 

Other Bretan reviews

My Lieder-Land Volume 1

My Lieder-Land Volume 2 RECORDING OF THE MONTH (April)

SONGS Ruxandra Donose (sop)

SONGS Alexandru Agache (baritone)

Sacred Songs

Horia - Opera

Golem, Arald - Operas

 

 

 


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