Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Centaur $15


Kaikhosru Shapurji SORABJI (1892-1988)
The Complete Songs for Soprano
Trois Poèmes (1918-19): Correspondances (Charles Baudelaire) [2:41]; Crépuscule du Soir Mystique (Paul Verlaine) [2:42]; Pantomime (Paul Verlaine) [1:26]
Chrysilla (Henri de Régnier) (1915) [3:01]
Roses du Soir (Pierre Louÿs) (1915) [3:01]
The Poplars (Jovan Dučić) (1915) [3:05]
l’Heure Exquise (Paul Verlaine) (1916) [2:13]
Vocalise (1916) [2:21]
I was not Sorrowful (Ernest Dowson) (1917) [2:30]
l’Étang (Maurice Rollinat) (1917) [2:37]
Hymne à Aphrodite (Laurent Tailhade) (1916) [4:59]
Apparition (Mallarmé) (1916) [2:40]
Trois Chants: (1941): 13. Le Faune (Paul Verlaine) [1:31]; Les Chats (Baudelaire) [3:01]; La Dernière Fête Galante (Paul Verlaine) [2:33]
Trois Fêtes Galantes (1919?): l’Allée (Paul Verlaine) [2:44]; A la Promenade (Paul Verlaine) [2:57]; Dans la Grotte (Paul Verlaine) [2:02]
l’Irrémédiable (Charles Baudelaire) (1927) [6:10]
Arabesque (Shamsu’d Dīn Ibrāhīm Mīrzā) (1920) [1:37]
Elizabeth Farnum (soprano)
Margaret Kampmeier (piano)
Recorded Aug-Nov 1999 and Aug 2000: Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, NY, DDD

CENTAUR CRC 2613 [56:01]


While geographically speaking Sorabji is an English composer he certainly does not belong in the lyrico-pastoral schools of Finzi, Head, Gurney, Howells and Warlock. He is not a composer of direct tunefulness. Rather his strengths lie in ecstatic harmonic complexity. His approach can be mapped out from Oriental and ecstatic co-ordinates we associate with Szymanowski (Love Songs of Hafiz Op. 26 and Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin Op. 42), Ravel (Chansons Madécasses and Chants Hébraïques), Bernard van Dieren (Chinese Symphony still unrecorded), Schoenberg (The Book of the Hanging Gardens) and Delage (Poèmes Hindous). The lie and fall of the sung lines can seem obtuse. They often proceed unlinked to the piano part.

Elizabeth Farnum, a dramatic soprano, is equal to the considerable challenge of these songs which demand and receive both delicacy and a tempestuous fulminant. The tracks she follows are rolling, wayward and exotic; dense with the profuse undergrowth of wild-eyed ideas and touching on the realms of Havergal Brian’s Wine of Summer with its hectically luxuriant setting of Lord Alfred Douglas’s The Wine of Summer. Comparing Farnum’s singing with that of Jane Manning (with Yonty Solomon in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of 14 August 1982) Farnum retains a more voluptuous tone with less sign of strain across the tortuous demands. It is not all stürm und drang. Take for instance Pantomime which has a coquettish flightiness. In Hymne à Aphrodite the listener really appreciate the resonance of the studio in which this was recorded. The singing has about it a dazzling confidence verging on hubris. As for the style this is the antithesis of Granville Bantock’s Straussian style (see recent Dutton Epoch collection). In Chrysilla we encounter a dramatic scena and at the end there is a devastatingly effective retreat into hooded tone and a strange harmonic shift. In the menacing Poplars storming upward slashing tumbles of notes, excellently handled by Margaret Kampmeier, are just as memorable as the diaphanous iridescence of L’Heure Exquise. In Vocalise I expected to find some kinship with Medtner’s Sonata-Vocalise of almost thirty years later. Instead there is some muezzin-like melisma mixed with glint and hardness.

The only real sadness is that Centaur do not provide the sung texts. We could not have more authoritative notes. These are by the composer and Sorabji archive curator, Alistair Hinton.

Rob Barnett


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