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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Montserrat CABALLÉ en récital: Recital "Los Encores"
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Semele: Oh, sleep! Why dost thou leave me?
Giovanni Battista COSTANZI (1704-1778)

Eupatre: Lusinga la speme
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Warnung, K.433
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Wonne der Wehmut, op. 83/1
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Aufträge, op. 77/5
Trad. German, arr. Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Och Moder, ich well en Ding han
Hugo WOLF
(1860-1903)
Mausfallen-Sprüchlein
Trad. Swiss, arr. GUND

G’sätzli

 

Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Nebbie
L. CASTAGNARO

Lasciati amare
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)

Cancion al arbol del olvido
J. M. GALVEZ

Variante de Petenera
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (b.1912)

Canción de cuna para dormir un negritto
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)

De los alamos vengo, madre
Fernando J. OBRADORS (1897-1945)

El molondron
Sánchez José PADILLA (1889-1960)

La violetera
Recorded in Barcelona, 1964
12ème Festival de Grenade
Franz SCHUBERT (1897-1828)

Du bist die Ruh, D.776, Die Junge Nonne, D.828, An die Musik, D.547


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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Ariettes oubliées: C’est l’extase langoureuse, Mandoline, Beau soir
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Siete canciones populares espanolas
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Ständchen, op. 17/2, Heimliche Aufforderung, op. 27/3, Allerseelen, op. 10/8
Recorded in Barcelona, July 1963
Recital Richard Strauss
Richard STRAUSS

Ich liebe dich, op. 37/2, Ruhe, meine Seele! Op. 27/1, Ich schwebe, op. 48/2, Traum durch die Dämmerung, op. 29/1, Zueignung, op. 10/1, Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten, op. 19/4, Wiegenlied, op. 41/1, Ich trage meine Minne, op. 32/1, Freundliches Vision, op. 48/1, Schlechtes Wetter, op. 69/5, Morgen! Op. 27/4, Befreit, op. 39/4, Die Nacht, op. 10/3, Cäcilie, op. 27/2
Recorded in Barcelona, 1964
Montserrat Caballé (soprano), Miguel Zanetti (piano)
RCA RED SEAL 82876 511912 [2 CDs: 74:41, 53:45]


The second (in my listening order – so far I have reviewed "Grandes héroïnes lyriques") of these wonderful RCA Red Seal albums dedicated to the early recordings which Montserrat Caballé made in Spain brings together lieder, mélodies and other vocal chamber music. As well as reminding us of the sheer untrammelled beauty of this singer’s voice in its prime, its evenness of emission, its steadiness and vibrancy (but completely without the tremor which some pass off as vibrato), qualities which can be heard in every track, it testifies to the sheer hard work which got her to the top.

I was pretty rude about her French in "Depuis le jour" on the previous album. That was in December 1964, so I’m puzzled as to why these July 1963 recordings already show a determined effort to master the language. True, those "n"s which are supposed to disappear down the nose ("dans", "viens", etc.) don’t sound quite French, but she does nothing glaring like turning "de" into "des" as she did in the Charpentier piece, and only Frenchmen are likely to find it a bar to enjoyment. I feel she is too bright and present in the half-light mysteries of "Mandoline", which is not really a bravura piece, but she spins a wonderfully poised line through the others.

When singers whose basic training is in the bel canto school of opera turn to lieder, they tend to go for the longer line rather than the separated, syllable-by-syllable approach often preferred by native lieder singers. Caballé surprises us (though let us remember her early years at the Bremen Opera House) by strenuously adopting the German style, almost obsessively separating the syllables. She gets away with it because the sound itself is so beautiful. All the same, when I turned to the versions of several of these Strauss lieder by Katarina Karnéus (EMI CDZ 5 73168 2) I found a more intimate relationship between the singer and the language, a more natural sense of the style, and a voice no less true and beautiful.

The question which is bound to be asked when a full-dress opera singer takes to this repertoire is, is she too big for it? A few months ago four of these Strauss songs came my way in performances by Leontyne Price in which it seemed that a sledgehammer was being taken to crack a nut. Either she was audibly holding back or she was giving too much. When a singer like Karnéus sings the climactic high notes of a lied, it sounds full and magnificent, yet you feel this is the right sized voice for the repertoire, for a concert hall not an opera house, with a piano not an orchestra (I’m not suggesting Karnéus cannot sing some operatic roles, indeed she does so, yet she appears at the moment to be perfectly equipped as a lieder singer). Now Strauss can be merciless with his high tessitura, and when only operatic heft will get the singer through, Caballé has it there on tap. But the interesting thing is that much more often, as in the climax of Zueignung, she sounds as if she has a voice perfectly scaled to the job in hand, with no appearance of holding back. What extraordinary control she had over her vocal means. In "Ich schwebe" she sounds like a light and girlish fräulein, the sort of performance Hilde Gueden might have given. There is, here and there, a slight price to pay in that her high notes seem a shade pinched, when we know that in other contexts she can let them expand gloriously. It’s actually easier to sing some of these phrases in the style of Puccini, and sometimes one wishes she would, while at the same time applauding her self-discipline in not doing so.

If all this adds up to something not quite perfectly idiomatic, it does show that Caballé had, at this stage, the potential to become as great a lieder singer as she became of opera. But did she follow this up? Even as it is, and granted a tendency to swoon too much, there is still enough to send any Straussian into ecstasies. In particular, the dulcet tones of her "Wiegenlied" are themselves worth the price of the discs.

In the other major offering, the Falla "7 Canciones", she is surely on home ground, even if the tempi in the two slower ones – the "Asturiana" and the "Nana" – are dangerously slow. Here, too, is perhaps the moment to mention that Miguel Zanetti is a positive and colourful partner throughout.

The first part of the album is a programme of supposed encores. The Beethoven and the Respighi (which is very powerfully brought off) seem odd choices in this context but it makes a nice "international" sequence. The "arie antiche" sound pretty old-fashioned and her English is poor in the Handel but thereafter all is well. The Spanish and Latin-American items are all highly attractive.

So in conclusion, not everything here is perfectly idiomatic, but there is much to treasure and the voice itself is a source of wonder.

Christopher Howell

 

MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ: Grandes héroïnes lyriques

Montserrat CABALLÉ en récital: Recital "Los Encores"

Montserrat CABALLÉ EN DUO - Duos de Amor

Montserrat CABALLÉ: Récital espagnol

 

 

 



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