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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Jennie TOUREL (mezzo soprano) 1900-1973.
Naxos Historical. ‘Great Singers Series’
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809).

‘The Mermaid's Song’. [Now the dancing sunbeams play]
‘A Pastoral Song’. [My mother bids me bind my hair]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868).

Semiramide, ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’.
Il barbiere di siviglia, ‘Una voce poca fa’.
Fryderyk CHOPIN, (1810-1849)

‘Zyczenie’. [The Maiden's Wish]
‘Moja pieszczota’. [My Joys]
‘Nierna czego trzeba’. [Melancholy]
Georges BIZET (1838- 1875).

Carmen, ‘Habanera’, and ‘Seguidille’.
‘Adieu de l'hôtesse arabe’. Op 21, No.4.
Emmanuel CHABRIER, (1841-1894)

‘Romance de l'étoile’
Gabriel FAURE (1875-1947).

‘Trois poèmes d'un jour’, (Op. 21): a) Rencontre, b) Toujours, c) Adieu.
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937).

‘Vocalise en forme de Habanera’.
Reynaldo HAHN, (1875-1947).

‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes’.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881).

‘Serenade’. ‘Field-Marshal Death’.
Sergey RACHMANINOV, (1873-1943).

‘Cease thy Singing, Maiden Fair’, (Op. 4, No. 4). ‘In the Silence of the Night’. (Op. 4, No. 3).
‘Floods of Spring’. (Op. 14, No. 4
Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953).

Alexander Nevsky, ‘Field of the Dead’.
Jennie Tourel
Various orchestras, conductors and piano accompanists. Recorded 1945-1952.
NAXOS 8.110735[74.49]

 

Jennie Tourel was born in Russia and fled, with her family, to France, via Danzig, at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. It was in Danzig where, according to Malcolm Walker’s brief but informative note, Jennie made her first stage appearances. However, it was in Paris that her career took off, first with the ‘Opéra Russe’, and then from 1933 to 1939 at the ‘Opéra Comique’ where she sang over two hundred performances of Carmen as well as appearing as Charlotte, Cherubino and Mignon. It was in the latter role that she first appeared at the New York ‘Met’ in1937. She escaped from France to the United States at the outbreak of World War Two and sang at both the ‘Met’ and ‘City Opera’. In 1951 she created the role of ‘Baba the Turk’ in a cast including Schwarzkopf as Anne Trulove. By that time, however, Tourel concentrated on recitals in which she built up a worldwide reputation.

Jennie Tourel’s justifiable reputation was based on the beauty of her true mezzo voice, with its span of three octaves, and the characterization she brought to her singing. I should also add, her facility in English, French and Russian, all of which are heard here. Her Carmen ‘Habanera’ and ‘Séguidille’ are even in tone, vivacious and sensual (tr 8-9). Equally impressive is her 1952 rendering of Rossini’s ‘Bel raggio’ (tr 3). In this demanding aria her coloratura is secure and the voice even. In the succeeding ‘Una voce poco fa’ (tr 4) from the same series of sessions, she takes the runs and high notes with pinpoint accuracy and without aspiration, which is nowadays a far too common fault among singers.

The secure foundation of Tourel’s technique secured her a renowned place on the concert platform in Europe and the United States, and it is her singing from her concert repertoire on this disc that really enables this generation to appreciate what a great singer she was. The variety of nuance, tone and character she could bring to a song are well illustrated by Haydn’s ‘Mermaid Song, (tr 1), Chopin’s ‘Zyczinie’ (tr 5) with it’s lovely soft singing, and Ravel’s ‘Vocalise’ (tr 11) where her chest register is formidably sonorous; all the excerpts are examples of legato allied to expression.

In my review, elsewhere on this site, of the disc devoted to Tourel in Decca’s ‘Singers Series’, I regretted not finding any other discs of the singer’s art available in the U.K. This issue with its clear forward remastering is an excellent addition to her available discography. Can we hope for a Volume 2? In her prime she made many recordings and Naxos have a good reputation in this respect, but it all depends on commercial reality. I suggest all lovers of great singing should add this disc to their collection.


Robert J Farr



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