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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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The Low Bass. Great Art Songs from the Bass repertoire
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Der Tod und das Mädchen
Der Wanderer
Erlkönig
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)

From the Michelangelo Poems:
Wohl denk’ ich oft
Alles Endet, was entsteht
Fühit meine Seele
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Danse Macabre
Ange FLÉGIER (1846-1927)

Le Cor
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Im Spätboot
Der Einsame
Das Thal
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Morning
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Leaves make Sound
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Verrat
Norman DELLO JOIO (b 1913)

The Assassination
Jack BEESON (b 1921)

To a Sinister Potato
Kevin Maynor (bass)
Richard Woitach (piano)
Recorded Seltzer Sound, New York City, October and December 2001
GUILD GMCD 7244 [57.52]

Kevin Maynor has a nobly rounded bass. Its downward extension is fine, he possesses declamatory power when needed and whilst his top is not always ideally strong or resonant enough he’s seldom found badly wanting in his chosen repertoire. In addition his diction is often sound and he has the confidence to construct a programme wide ranging enough to take in German, French, Russian and English. Then there is his – or the record company’s – confidence in starting off with the three canonical Schubert settings. As a recitalist he seems to favour slow moving gravity; it suits the voice, which is sometimes less than authentically mobile, but it also presents problems. It brings with it potential fatigue, a danger not entirely alleviated by his vocal production – which can be worryingly one-dimensional as well as lacking range of colouration and flexibility. The lack of optimum colour exposes an allied problem, which is a certain generalization of approach, an inability to distinguish between the songs through inflection and subtle illumination of the text.

There are many enjoyable things here naturally but others that will provoke debate. The contrastive material in Erlkönig seems rather overdone – the croon and the hardening are just too explicit – and when we reach Wolf I find that Wohl denk’ ich oft isn’t quite climactic enough. Fühit meine Seele is the most comprehensively well sung of this group of three in which Maynor seems to seek textual depths with particular care. There is a little intermezzo via Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre even though his French pronunciation is rather occluded. Flégier’s Le Cor seems to me altogether more convincing – powerfully resonant low notes and some really dextrous musicianship. He brings out the concentrated gravity of Strauss’ Der Einsame but in a companion setting, Das Thal, Maynor badly lacks subtlety of expressive nuance. As one might expect the Russian settings are good vehicles for his plangent sympathy and the recital ends with two slices of Americana – Dello Joio’s The Assassination, slow-moving and pensive and Jack Beeson’s To a Sinister Potato, which sounds iconoclastically promising but isn’t.

Sleeve notes detailing the trials and tribulations of recording life with entertaining honesty are by the excellent pianist, Richard Woitach.

Jonathan Woolf



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