> Marti Talvela: Decca Singers Series 4679032 [RJF]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Marti TALVELA, bass (1935-1989)
‘The Singers’ series

Songs by Schumann, Mussorgsky & Rachmaninov
Irwin Gage, Ralf Gothoni (piano)
Rec. Berlin, Germany,1969-80
DECCA 467 903-2 [72.22]



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This disc is one of the first twenty of Decca's ‘The Singers’ series. With another thirty in preparation, this series claims to present the artistry of the greatest singers from the first century of recording. The selection of singer and tracks was made by the late John Ardoin and is somewhat idiosyncratic despite the overflowing recorded annals of DG, Philips and Decca.

These discs include a ‘multimedia’ element, being enhanced for those with CD-ROM facility, to include photo gallery, biographies and texts. If you lack a suitable PC you have to make do with a brief essay and track listing, the latter omitting such basic information as to the operatic character singing the aria! The presentation aims to be different and unique, being a cardboard case within a plastic slip case emblazoned ‘The Singers’

Born in Finland in 1935, Marti Talvela sang in all the world’s major opera houses. A big man, he is most often remembered for his performances in opera. He was a noble Boris, Old Believer (Khovanshchina), Sarastro and King Philip. However, he gave many recitals of lieder and song and it is this aspect of his art that is represented on this disc. When recorded in 1969, Schumann’s opus 35 was a neglected work, being a series of 12 song settings for various vocal registers rather than a cycle as presented here. Talvela is not successful in fining down his large bass voice for the soprano song, Stille Tränen for example (tk 10), and expression is lost: whilst Wanderlied (tk 3) is better suited and allows him to exhibit his wide ranging artistry and vocal prowess. Mussorgsky’s Flea and Songs and Dances of Death, and the four Rachmaninov songs, recorded in 1980, are more Talvela’s métier. He has an obvious affinity for the Russian language and its nuances, and all these songs are well suited to his strengths, be it in vocal heft or delicate shading of expression and phrasing. Both accompanists are first rate.

The recordings are well balanced between piano and singer in a clear natural acoustic. The booklet essay by John Steane, the doyen of commentators of the singing voice, is exemplary.

Robert J Farr


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