It is perhaps a duty of major artists that they should
use their influence to challenge us as listeners, and part of that challenge
should surely be to extend our awareness of the vast riches of the repertory.
Anne Sofie von Otter, with her talented colleagues, certainly succeeds
on these fronts in this attractive song compilation of music by three
little known composers in this field: Meyerbeer, Spohr and Beethoven.
It might seem to strange to describe Beethoven as 'little
known', yet that is precisely what he is as far as music for voice and
piano is concerned. Move beyond the celebrated cycle An die ferne Geliebte,
and the territory is largely uncharted. So all credit to von Otter for
her enterprise. The two Italian settings are very pleasing, and hardly
that obscure, but she finds subtleties of tone colour that give the
music its maximum potential. The other highlight is the other well known
item: Adelaide. This she sings with abundant sensitivity to the text,
which she makes more of a priority than the alternative of a beautiful
Spohr is an underrated composer in every genre in which
he worked, so it is good to have these songs with obbligato violin and
piano. The three-artist combination is itself of abundant interest,
though the music is charming and decorative rather than penetrating.
Much of the violin writing takes the form of a florid descant around
the voice: just compare Spohr's version of Goethe's Erlkönig with
the famous song by Schubert, which is much more powerful.
Meyerbeer is remembered almost entirely for his operas,
so to have these song performances is intriguing and rewarding too.
The languages are both French and German, and the elegance of the former
is particularly enjoyable. The balance between von Otter's graceful
vocal line and Melvyn Tan's fortepiano accompaniment is ideally captured
by the Archiv recording, and the attention to details of dynamics and
phrasing seems exemplary. This is a composer who is well worth exploring:
try, for example, the big scena Le voeu pendant l'orage and the charmingly
lightweight Sicilienne. Both are masterly in their different ways.
This is a most satisfying recital by major artists
in repertoire which expands our understanding of the composers. Full
texts and translations are included.