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Jan DeGaetani Early Music Recital
John DOWLAND (c1563-1626)

Dear, if you change
All ye, whom Love or Fortune
Whoever thinks or hopes of love
Can she excuse my wrongs
Sorrow, stay
A shepherd in a shade
Donatus de FLORENTIA (14th Century)

Sovran uccello se’fra tutti gli altri
Hayne van GHIZEGHEM (15th century)

De tous bien plaine
Amors amors

Filles a marier
Luzzasco LUZZASCHI (1545-1607)

Aura soave
Giulio CACCINI (c1545-1618)

Amarilli, mia bella
Belle Rose porporine
Oswald von WOLKENSTEIN (c1377-1445)

Stand auff Maradel! Liebes Gredel
Der Mai mit lieber zal
Ach, senleiches leiden
Du, auserweltes schöns mein herz
Wer die augen wil vershüren
Fröleich geschrai so well wir machen
Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano
Paul O’Dette, lute
Judith Davidoff. Vila da gamba and vielle
Philip West, shawms
Recorded in concert on 27 September 1977 at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music
BRIDGE 9087 [49.53]

Jan DeGaetani’s career was marked by catholicity of repertoire and her performances by a sense of intimacy. There is much surviving evidence – and much of it is on Bridge – to support the contention that she was one of the most versatile singers of her generation. And whilst one can think of her Ives or her Fauré, her Mahler or Strauss amongst others I often think of her Barber and the way in which her phrasing of the difficult Emily Dickinson settings elucidated and radiated something of the poems’ elasticity of meaning. But DeGaetani, despite her penchant for and promotion of Maxwell Davies, George Crumb and Kurtag was equally alive to Early Music and this further document of her art derives from a concert at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, where she was for a number of years Professor of Voice.

She was then in her mid-forties and joined by Paul O’Dette and other colleagues to give a demanding programme – both expressively and technically – and also in terms of communicability. In addition to her flexibility in matters of repertoire she also possessed a vocal agility that allowed her more easily to span the compass of these songs, whether introverted or more rustic. She brings an intense theatricality to some of the more bibulous and forthright ones and reserves her excellently graded tone, fined down where necessary to the core, for such as Dowland.

She adopts quite a brisk tempo for the Dowland settings, of which she sings six, being especially fluent in Can she excuse my wrongs whereas in Sorrow, stay she manages to colour her voice in such a way as, subtly, to amplify and distill the text. If I have a criticism – and this applies to the recital as a whole – it is not to do with stylistic questions or matters of performance practice both of which seem to me to be rather less pressing here. But I found – maybe the recording didn’t assist here though in all other respects it’s fine – that her diction is not optimum here, that it’s not at all easy to hear the words with any degree of clarity. The compensations are strong though – the wandering melismatic intimacy of the de Florentia setting or the long and sensitive depth of van Ghizeghem’s Amors amors. She is certainly earthy in the anonymous setting of Filles a marier with Philip West’s shawm making quite an impression and her lower voice is deployed to striking effect in Luzzaschi’s Aura soave. Hers was a highly personalized response to this music and there will be moments where her creative individuality will puzzle – I’m thinking of Amarilli, mia bella. Here she tends to overuse her lower register with a rather intrusive phrase-ending vibrato all of which nevertheless is accompanied by a delightful floated voice. Von Wolkenstein’s Stand auff brings out some marvelous folk singing, funny, earthy, theatrical that really reaches across to the clearly delighted audience and Der Mai is energized by her crisp and fast articulation. She can explore the solemnity of Ach, senleiches leiden or the urgency and felicity of the final brisk setting, Frölich geschrai with equal discernment.

The acoustic is sympathetic and the quality of the recording excellent – no glitches. Notes are succinct but unfortunately texts are not translated. My Middle Franco-Burgundian is a bit rusty these days and it would have helped to give more of a frisson to these delectable settings if they had been provided. The recital only lasts fifty minutes but should be judged on quality.

Jonathan Woolf

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