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Measha Brueggergosman - Surprise
William BOLCOM (b. 1938)
Cabaret Songs
1. Surprise! [0:42]
2. The Actor [1:31]
3. Song of Black Max [3:20]
4. Amor [3:08]
5. Toothbrush Time [3:19]
6. The Total Stranger in the Garden [1:54]
7. George [3:31]
Arnold SCHÖNBERG (1874–1951)
Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs)
8. Gigerlette [1:48]
9. Jedem das Seine [4:39]
10. Mahnung [4:37]
11. Galathea [3:09]
12. Der Nachtwandler [3:34]
13. Einfältiges Lied [2:16]
14. Der genügsame Liebhaber [2:19]
15. Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arkadien [3:10]
Orchestration: Patrick Davin (8-11; 13-15), Arnold Schönberg (12)
Erik SATIE (1866–1925)
16. La Diva de l’Empire [2:40]
17. Tendrement [4:13]
18. L’Omnibus automobile [2:52]
19. Daphénéo [1:27]
20. Je te veux [6:14]
Orchestration: Robert Caby (19), William Bolcom (20)
Measha Brueggergosman (soprano); William Bolcom (piano) (16-18); BBC Symphony Orchestra/David Robertson
rec. Maida Vale Studio, Delaware Road, London, May 2007
Texts and translations enclosed
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 6589 [60:22]
Experience Classicsonline

Surprise! is the title of the first of William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs and I believe that DG jumped at the opportunity to use this title to plug the disc. Here is a sensational surprise in the shape of the richly endowed Measha Brueggergosman, whose voice more than once reminds me of the young Leontyne Price. From a wider perspective it may also be seen as a surprise to introduce a new singer through so unorthodox a choice of repertoire. Most debut recitals are either a concoction of well known Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Richard Strauss or a baker’s dozen of standard operatic arias. The title may also refer to the songs themselves, since they are constantly surprising, unpredictable. By now most of us know the Satie songs and have got used to them but my first confrontation with them, many years ago, left me surprised: Is it possible to write art-songs that are so accessible and ‘popular’?
William Bolcom’s songs should attract a wide audience through the many styles they represent. Surprise! is a limp waltz, Song of Black Max a syncopated stroll – arguably the catchiest of the bunch – Amor has more than a trace of Bernstein and in the jazzy Toothbrush Time a naughty saxophone wants to share the space with the singer. The arrangements are colourful with a lot of percussion.
To many it may come as a surprise that Arnold Schönberg, the stern inventor of the strictest of compositional systems, dodecaphony, should condescend to such light fare as Cabaret songs but he was a lot folksier than his reputation: he arranged Strauss waltzes for chamber ensemble, he orchestrated Schubert songs and there is a rousing arrangement of the well known Italian song Funiculi, Funicula from his pen. These Brettl-Lieder, of which he only orchestrated Der Nachtwandler himself, are indeed highly entertaining and – yes – charming. I suppose ‘charming’ is the last word that comes to mind when mentioning the name Schönberg, but these songs are just that! Gigerlette is probably the best known of them. Elly Ameling recorded it once for CBS as part of an Encores record, but the low waltz Mahnung is just as enticing, Der Nachtwandler has echoes of both Mahler and Weill, Einfältiges Lied is partly a tango and the Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arkadien, a setting of Emanuel Schikaneder (he who wrote the libretto for Die Zauberflöte) in ¾ time should be a hit.
In the Satie songs there is a lot of competition and among sopranos Mady Mesplé, Elly Ameling, Régine Crespin and, with orchestral accompaniments, Carol Farley, have long been favourites. It is praise indeed to say that Ms Brueggergosman has nothing to fear from these comparisons. I won’t discard the old records but I have found a new favourite – just listen to her seductive Tendrement! She is also very good with the declamatory text in L’Omnibus automobile which Hugues Cuénod recorded so memorably when he was already in his mid-seventies. These two songs and the opening La Diva de l’Empire are sung with piano while Daphénéo and Je te veux have orchestral accompaniments, the first by Robert Caby the second by William Bolcom. Carol Farley also uses Caby’s arrangements, though her Je te veux is uncredited but sounds very much like the arrangement by Bolcom.
It would probably be tempting to show off on one’s debut disc with big gestures and ringing top notes. Canadian Meashe Brueggergosman does neither. For her it is obviously the songs that are to the fore and she presents them with small nuances and care for the texts. That she has extraordinary vocal resources is never in doubt and next time she may choose a programme that exhibits other sides of her armoury. And I do hope there will be many ‘next times’. This is certainly a singer to watch.
Göran Forsling


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