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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


The Art of Yolanda Marcoulescou-Stern Volume 1
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

Dinorah – Allons vite
Les Huguenots – Noble signeurs, salut!
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – Je suis Titania
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon – Restons ici
Manon – Je suis encore
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1956)

Louise – Depuis le jour
Nicolas ISOUARD (1775-1818)

Le Billet de Loterie – Non, je ne veux pas chanter
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Les Pêcheurs de Perles – Me voila seule dans la nuit
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)

Deux Stèles Orientées *
Aria (Vocalise) *
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)

Deux Poemes de Ronsard *
Ode XVI Sur lui-même
Ode XLIV Sur un songe
Sarabande
Le Bachelier de Dalamanque
Des fleurs font une broderie
Réponse d’une épouse sage
Amoureux séparés
À un jeune gentilhomme
A Flower Given To My Daughter
Light
Adieux
Odelette
Jazz dans la nuit
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

La Statue de Bronze
Daphénéo
Le Chapelier
Tendrement
La Diva de "l’Empire"
Je te veux
André CAPLET (1878-1925)

Écoute *
ROLAND-MANUEL (1891-1966)

Deux Élégies *
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)

Quatre Poèmes;
Sur le basalte au portique des antres calmes
Peuple du Christ j’expose en un ostensoir lourd
Mon Dieu
Toute seule
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Aquerelles;
Green
Spleen
Chevaux de bois
Le jet d’eau
Mandoline
Trois Chansons de France
Colloque sentimental
Fantoches
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Sainte
Epigrames de Clément Marot;

D’Anne qui me jecta de la Niege
D’Anne jouant de l’Espinette
Chanson du rouet
Manteau de Fleurs
Noëls des jouets
Les grands vents venus d’outremer
Sur l’herbe
Ronsard à son âme
Rêves
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)

Si
Privilèges
Ses deux yeux
Le soir qu’Amour
Trois Chants Op 98
Georges ENESCU (1881-1955)

Seven Songs Op 15
Yolanda Marcoulescou-Stern (soprano)
Katja Phillabaum (piano) except
Robert Goodberg (flute) *
Unattributed orchestra and conductor in the operatic selections
Recorded pre 1968 (operatic selection) and post 1974 remainder
GASPARO GG3-1004 [3 CDs 209.50]

 

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Yolanda Marcoulescou-Stern was the leading soprano at the Opera House in Bucharest for fully twenty years. Eventually in 1968 she left Rumania travelling to the United States where she taught at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Most of the recordings issued in this and its companion set (also a three CD box) were made after her tenure at Wisconsin but the operatic excerpts are products of her pre-1968 career in Bucharest. I’m sorry not to be able to date these discs more precisely but Gasparo have given me nothing to go on.

Marcoulescou-Stern died in 1991 and hers will, I think, not be a well-known name. I admit I’d not heard of her and on the basis of the recordings here it’s high time that they were made widely available on compact disc – they’re impressive. If the words Rumanian soprano, Opera House and operatic extracts lead you to expect a big voice, powerful declamatory style, strong vibrato and emotive wobble think again. On the contrary this is quite a small, subtle and intensely flexible vocal instrument, deployed with bewitching intellectual acumen. The repertoire on these discs should alert one to the kind of strengths she displays - incremental revelation of text, inflection, Gallic finesse, and characterisation, exploration of words and music in synchronous understanding.

She certainty has versatility in her operatic arias (they are split between this and Volume II), floating her tone in the Thomas beautifully and displaying a crystalline trill in Je suis encore from Manon; nothing sounds false or forced or unwieldy. But the bulk of this set is devoted to chansons in all its variety, geographical and musical and this is a perceptive selection of material, persuasively interpreted. Sarah Walker is much associated with this kind of literature in Britain but not even she, I think, could lay claim to the range of composers that Marcoulescou-Stern essays so vividly and characterfully. Her Ibert is capped by her exquisite Vocalise and she is well partnered by the knowingly avian flute of Robert Goodberg in these unusual settings and those of Roussel’s Ronsard chansons. I especially appreciated the delicate impressionism of the Caplet setting and the understanding and seriousness of Honegger’s devout Peuple du Christ.

She sounds to have the full measure of the Enescu settings – not least the character of Changeons propos - and also the reflective intimacy of Roussel’s Sur lui-même. Lest one think that an impressionistic heat haze hangs over the recital one can happily point to the night club vamp of Jazz dans la nuit, a wonderful Roussel piece or Satie’s La Statue de Bronze which sounds like a 1950s pop song or the douceur of his Daphénéo. If you don’t know these Satie songs go straight to La Diva de "l’Empire" and listen to the quirky, cabaret style frolics that saturate it. Even amongst this variety the Debussy and Ravel settings respond eloquently to her. This is an elusive region for many singers, where colour, vocal and pianistic, has to be finely judged. She and the pianist Katja Phillabaum prove model guides. There were one or two moments when I wished for slightly greater weight at the bottom of her register and there are one or two examples of her somewhat forcing her tone (in the first of the Trois Chansons de France for example) but these are minor concerns. Phillabaum is splendid in the piano postlude of Pour ce que Plaisance est morte from the same set of three and her voicings in the Ravel setting D’Anne jouant de l’Espinette are first rate. Marcoulescou-Stern proves equally at home here – clarity without loss of expressivity and alive and characterful with beauty of tone (sample Manteau de Fleurs). And when it comes to a difficult setting such as Schmitt’s Si her sense of characterisation and incident allows her to deal with its sometimes vertiginous moods in a way both elastic and convincing.

Full texts are provided in three separate fold out booklets and brief details of singer and fellow musicians. It’s been a most rewarding experience to have encountered Marcoulescou-Stern’s art – because Gasparo’s series title is no exaggeration and quite aptly chosen.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review Volume 2

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