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VESSELINA KASAROVA. Lieder recital. Songs by Schubert, Brahms and Schumann.

Vesselina Kasarova (mezzo soprano), Friedrich Haider (piano).
RCA Red Label 09026 68763 2. [DDD].

This is as perfect a CD as you could hope for.

Vesselina Kasarova has a faultless voice and a staggering understanding of each of the 22 songs she performs. Her contralto range is both rich and velvety, utterly convincing and extraordinarily appealing. Her middle range is uncluttered and the top of her range is wonderfully clear. Her voice has a compelling maturity but is not affected by style or mannerisms. And yet there is also a beguiling innocence as well. Her intonation is secure and there is a welcome innovation in that she acts out the songs making them to be living experiences not just dots and words on paper that are sung.

What thrilled me was that Schubert songs are almost always sung as 'pretty and nice music' and some of his accompaniments are just vamping, a very annoying feature of Schubert's piano music, but here the performances are neither weak nor effeminate.

The pianist is also very fine indeed. Consider his lively and well-rounded attack in the first song Fischerweise. It seems that singer and pianist have considered every detail in all of the songs and, as a result, we have an amazing recital.

I had to replay the CD again and again.

The recorded sound is excellent. It cannot be faulted.

The perfection of this solo recital is also enhanced by the programme and the prudent order of the songs. It begins on 'a high' and ends on one too with Schumann's magnificent Aufträge. The twenty songs between these two vary in tempi and familiarity. Although most of these songs are well known the performances were so exemplary that I felt as if I was hearing them for the first time.

Kasarova's attack in Fischerweise is compelling. The cheerfulness is infectious. Der Jüngling an der Quelle captures youth and innocence ... listen to the clarity of the voice ... and, again, the vibrant earnestness. The rhythmic bounce of Der Wanderer an der Mond has an engaging swagger. It is simply delightful. The wonder of the beautiful world is excellently portrayed in Im Abendrot though I have always thought Schubert's piano part in this song somewhat daft but the vocal line, as sung here, goes straight to the heart. Listen with amazement to the atmosphere of Nacht und Träume expertly captured by both players. The pianist is simply masterful in the exquisite modulation before the words Die belauschen sie mit lust and just revel in how those words of furtive joy are sung. I do not identify with the Romanze from Rosamunde. Songs with merely supportive chords for the vocal line can be tedious and weak. Im Früling is a gem. I admired the impish innocence in this performance as conveyed by the words:

Where I in the first light of spring
Once was so happy.

Standchen or Hark! Hark! The Lark is a daft song and even these splendid artistes cannot save it from triviality.

Broken relationships are nothing new. In An Mein Herz this mood is realised with earnest feeling:

O heart! Be still at least!
Why torment me this way?
It is still heaven's will
That I leave him now.

The turmoil is brilliantly captured as is the madness in Ernest Schultze's words. Admire that cadaverous low register of this incredible voice. Drama in pretty Schubert? Who would have thought it?

The Brahms's songs are in a different league as one would expect from a truly great composer. His seriousness makes his songs profound and more satisfying. Der Frühling is superb. The earnestness in the voice, the glorious shape of the song and the coherence of the performance can only be admired. The lazy summer is movingly caught in Feldeinsamkeit and compare Brahms's lark in Lerchengesang and you will further prove that Schubert's lark is trite.

As if we had not had revelation enough the performance of Von Einiger Liebe was out of this world. I had to replay and replay it.

A good contrast of six songs by Schumann completes this CD. Der Nussbaum is a super song and how well the composer interprets the words:

The girl listens to the rustling in the tree;
Longing, imagining,
She sinks smiling into sleep and dreams.

The final song, Aufträge, is stunning. I have only heard Julianne Banse sing it this well. I had to replay this track over and over. I shall wear this disc out.

As I have said, this is as perfect a CD as you could hope for. Superlative!


David Wright




David Wright



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