> Suzanne DANCO Decca The Singers [JQ]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Singers Series

1. Henry PURCELL (1659-1695): When I am laid in earth (Dido and Aeneas)
2. Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-87): Divinités du Styx (Alceste)
L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Alberto Erede
3. Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91): Voi che sapete (Le Nozze di Figaro)
Come scoglio (Cosi fan tutte)
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala conducted by Jonel Perlea
4. Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901): Ah, fors’e lui (La Traviata)
5. Jules MASSENET (1842-1912): Adieu, notre petite table (Manon)
6. Georges BIZET (1838-75): Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante (Carmen)
7. Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1856): Depuis le jour (Louise)
L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande conducted by Alberto Erede
8. Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949): Morgen, Op. 27, No. 4
Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2
Traum durch die Dammerung, Op. 29, No. 1
Zueignung, Op. 10, No.1
Freundliche Vision, Op. 48, No.1
9. Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918): Ariettes oubliées
Guido Agosti (piano)
Recording dates and venues: Items 1, 2, 4-7: Victoria Hall, Geneva, April, 1950
Item 3, July, 1947
Item 8, Victoria Hall, Geneva, October, 1952
Item 9, Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, December, 1950
DECCA 467 909-2 [68.29]

This is one of the first releases in Decca’s new series, The Singers, and it celebrates the art of the distinguished Belgian soprano, Suzanne Danco (1911-2000).

This CD is graced by a typically informative and well-balanced note by Alan Blyth. It is worth quoting a couple of his comments. He describes Danco as: "Elegant, cool and – paradoxically – at the same time passionate; technically accomplished and a mistress of pointed diction and immaculate phrasing." He also recalls a comment by Suzanne Danco that "she always loved whatever she was singing at a given moment in time." Anyone listening to this collection will find that these comments are faithfully reflected during every minute that the disc plays.

The recital is divided between opera and recital. The Purcell is, to my ears, too slow but Danco spins an exquisite line, completely at ease with the tempo. If elegance was the hallmark of her Purcell, and the later Mozart items, she is all fire and drama in the excerpt from Alceste: a commanding performance. In the Verdi I can only concur with Alan Blyth’s reference to "sovereign phrasing". He notes an absence of Italianate warmth and I bow to his huge experience though I must say I still found Danco very convincing here.

In the three excerpts from nineteenth century French opera Danco is very much on "home turf" and it shows. She is a deeply affecting Manon and sings Michaela’s aria with a mixture of ardour and pathos. All I will say about the excerpt from Louise is that she sings it ravishingly.

I had not previously associated Suzanne Danco with lieder but I enjoyed her Strauss group very much. She floats the line of ‘Morgen’ exquisitely and sings ‘Standchen’ with an infectious charm and gaiety. ‘Zueignung’ is built to an ecstatic climax and as for ‘Freundliche Vision’, the simple eloquence of the performance made me replay the track immediately.

The concluding Debussy songs are, quite simply, hors concours. Danco is completely at home with the idiom and the language. Debussy’s elusive and atmospheric songs are here conveyed with complete conviction and understanding and with a wonderful variety of tonal colouring. A marvellous account. In these songs, as in those by Strauss, Guido Agosti provides excellent support.

The recorded sound is variable. Throughout the voice is to the fore, particularly in the items with orchestra. Interestingly the sound differs significantly between the two Mozart items even though they were products of the same session. The sound in Come scoglio is harsher and with a great deal more hiss; Voi che sapete is much easier on the ears. In all the orchestral items the sound of the upper strings and oboes in particular tends to be acidic and thin; I’m sure this is due to the limitations of the recording equipment of the day and does not do proper justice to the tonal qualities of the Swiss orchestra in particular. In the songs the piano sound is rather clangy in the upper registers.

The presentation of the CDs in this series includes the usual printed booklet which gives a full track listing. Alan Blyth’s essay is also printed. However, if you want the text and translations these are only accessible by using the disc as a CD ROM (the texts can be printed off). The CD ROM also includes a gallery of interesting photographs and what seems to be a far from complete discography. All this is fine for those with PCs but what about collectors without that facility? Since this series is designed to pay tribute to some of the century’s finest singers I hope Decca will consider making texts and translations available also in the traditional format.

Absolutely no reservations about the recorded performances, however. Suzanne Danco was a wonderful singer and this CD gives us another chance to admire her range and artistry.

John Quinn

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