> TEYTE Decca The Singers 4679162 [JQ]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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The Singers: Maggie TEYTE (1888-1976)
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880): ‘Tu n’es pas beau – je t’adore’ (La Perichole)
André Messager (1853-1929): ‘Petite dinde! Ah! quel outrage!’ (Veronique)
Messager: ‘Ma foi! Pour venir de Provence’ (Veronique)
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): ‘Apres un reve’
Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947): ‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes’
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904): ‘Christina’s Lament’
Dvorak: ‘Songs my mother taught me’
Henry Gibson: ‘Sweet Mistress Prue’ (Sir Roger de Coverley)
Gibson: ‘Carefree’ (Sir Roger de Coverley)
Sigmund Romberg: (1887-1951): ‘Deep in my heart dear’ (The Student Prince)
Charles Cuvillier (1877-1955): ‘What is done you never can undo’ (The Lilac Domino)
Noel Coward (1899-1973): ‘I’ll follow my secret heart’ (Conversation Piece)
Coward: ‘Nevermore’ (Conversation Piece)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856): ‘Der Nussbaum’ Op. 25 No. 3
Schumann: ‘Auftrage’ Op. 77. No.5
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): ‘Die Mainacht’, Op. 43 No. 2
Brahms: ‘An die Nachtigall’, Op. 46, No.4
Brahms: ‘Meine Liebe ist grun’ Op. 63, No 5
Roger Quilter (1877-1953): ‘Now sleeps the crimson petal’
Frederick Delius (1862-1934): ‘Indian Love Song’
Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960): ‘The fields are full of summer still’
Frank Bridge (1879-1941): ‘E’en as a lovely flower’
Amherst Webber (1867-1946): ‘The nightingale sings to his mate in the tree’
Graham Peel (1877-1937): ‘Wander-thirst’
Dame Maggie Teyte (soprano)
Items 1 -3 and 8 –13 with orchestral accompaniment
Items 4 – 7 with George Reeves (piano)
Items 14 – 24 with Rita Mackay (piano)
Recordings made: September 1932 (items 1 – 7, 10, 11); November 1932 (items 8, 9, 12, 13); August 1937 (item 21); 1937 (items 14 – 20, 22- 24)
DECCA 467 916-2 [63.42]

 

Most of the first releases in Decca’s new series, The Singers, have been devoted to singers from the post-war era and with something of a bias towards the opera house. This CD is particularly valuable in restoring to general circulation recordings made by Dame Maggie Teyte in the 1930s. This period was, perhaps, the peak of a career which spanned nearly five decades from 1906 to 1955 (and she made some records as late as 1958).

Maggie Teyte is justly celebrated as an interpreter of French music which, at first sight may seem surprising since she hailed from Wolverhampton. This particular expertise arose from her early training in Paris where she studied with the celebrated tenor, Jean de Reszke. Two other crucial subsequent mentors were the composer/conductor, Reynaldo Hahn, and Claude Debussy with whom she studied the title role of his opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, prior to performing it in 1908. Sadly, this collection contains but one song by Hahn and nothing at all by Debussy.

Nonetheless, much of what is included here is of great interest and Decca are to be congratulated on assembling a programme which is nicely varied and on making available for the first time on CD some fascinating and rare material. One item, the song by Armstrong Gibbs, has never been published before.

Throughout the recital several vocal qualities are readily apparent. Firstly, Dame Maggie’s diction is of bell-like clarity throughout. Secondly, she sounds completely at ease with whatever she sings (for example, she gives the two excerpts from Messager’s Véronique an irresistible sparkle and lift.) Then there is the production of the voice itself. Fundamentally, the voice was a light one. However, Dame Maggie was no soubrette; there is ample depth to the tone and the sound is evenly produced throughout its range. Needless to say, there is absolute security on the top notes, which have a lovely, easy ring to them.

The first few tracks are devoted to French music (it’s a pity there were not more such examples). For me the highlights among these are a wondrously languorous account of Faure’s Après un rêve and an exquisitely poised rendition of Hahn’s Si mes vers avaient des ailes, which includes some gorgeously floated top notes.

If I’m absolutely honest I would have sacrificed happily the tracks devoted to English musicals in exchange for more French repertoire. Candidly, most of the music on these half dozen tracks is pretty second rate though Teyte still lavishes all her skill and artistry upon this material. However, in these items the clear diction, so welcome elsewhere, jars somewhat to me; Teyte is too careful with the words and the result sounds rather studied, even twee. Certainly these performances are very much of their period.

The real treasure trove is contained in the second half of the disc. The last 11 tracks are all taken, I think, from a 1937 BBC broadcast recital (or it may be more than one: the documentation is a little imprecise on this point). There are two songs by Schumann and three by Brahms. These are followed by six English songs, most of them little known. All these items here make their first appearance on CD.

Unfortunately, the sound quality on these BBC tracks is a little disappointing. The engineers have not quite tamed the surface noise and the piano accompaniment is rather relegated to the background. However, none of this seriously detracts from overall enjoyment. What a pleasure it is to hear songs and lieder sung by such a pure, bright and forward voice. I must confess that I found Teyte’s delivery of Quilter’s Now sleeps the crimson petal too studied. It is a simple, direct song and to my ears she rather smothers it but other listeners may disagree. The previously unpublished song by Armstrong Gibbs, which I had not previously heard, is short and slender but it is lovingly performed. Despite surface cracks and pops (perhaps the reason it has lain unpublished all these years) the inclusion of this recording was fully justified. I’m afraid I can shed no light at all on the composer, Amherst Webber.

As with all the releases in this series, the printed documentation consists merely of a track listing and a liner note (in this case by the late John Ardoin). Listeners wanting texts and translations have to use the disc as a CD Rom, which is fine up to a point but not much use to listeners who do not have access to a computer. The CD Rom also includes some photographs, which I must say I found of limited interest.

Still, the raison d’être of this disc is the singing of Maggie Teyte and for that it can be recommended wholeheartedly. The material is of varying musical interest but the performances are of the first rank. Collectors are advised to snap up this disc while it is available for it is self-recommending to all connoisseurs of fine singing.

 

John Quinn

 


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