have long been a fan of Christine Brewer. Her contribution
to the Hyperion Schubert Edition is certainly one of the best
of that superb series (CDJ33031), and her singing in Zemlinsky's
Es war einmal at the RFH in 1999 (see
review) confirmed a major talent. At the time I wrote
of her 'evocative, musty mezzo-like tone in the lower registers
and no shortage of power in the higher ones' and I see no
reason to change my judgement on present evidence. It is right
that her stature be recognised in the fine Chandos series.
'great Hall of song' ('Dich teure Halle') from Tannhäuser
is an excellent vehicle to begin any recital. A shame then
that the extended orchestral introduction is far from spotless.
Low on dynamism and occasionally slack of ensemble, in a sense
it highlights Brewers' magnificence on entry. Her lyrical
line is superb. Only one point of diction raises its head
– she comes very close to singing, 'I honour you with all
me 'eart' (you can hear the 'h'; of 'heart', but only just).
Anna's Vengeance Aria (with preceding accompanied recitative)
is marred by an OTT, hammy Barry Banks and the orchestra again
go through the motions for the aria proper. Interestingly,
there are some attempts at 'period' articulation in the strings
for the Gluck Alceste excerpt. Far fewer nods to authenticism
from Brewer – this is an advert for her, and heard as such
it is impressive.
radiant opening of 'Ocean! Thou mighty monster' alas leads
to a sag in tension. At around 7'10 in this aria, Brewer positively
bursts forth, and so does Weber. The orchestra however doesn't
share this idea ('O transport!', 7'06). More Weber from Euryanthe,
wherein Brewer's top register glistens but retains her characteristic
depth of tone. Janice Watson is well chosen as her companion
here, her voice complementing Brewer's to perfection.
The golden legend is new to me, and Brewer makes a
superb case for it. Her legato is now almost luminous, and
the chorus appear on top form. Really beautiful.
Rossini excerpt is highly dramatic, but perhaps the climax
of the disc comes in the form of Beethoven's concert aria,
Ah perfido! This is the only item on the disc when
the Philharmonia actually sounds interested. I immediately
wanted to experience this again after hearing it the first
time, such was its effect. It feels as if Brewer has 'arrived'
and that here she is completely at home. The more 'poppy'
items (de rigeur in a recital such as this) from Lehár, Rodgers
and Kálmán are all entered into the spirit of. The Carousel
excerpt is a haunting way in which to end, but of this lighter
end of the spectrum it is perhaps the Countess Maritza
(to give the title in English) excerpt that impresses
most. Brewer soars magnificently.
generative impulse for this disc was Brewer's recording of
Fidelio - to be reviewed shortly. Chandos's faith in
her has been justified, completely and utterly.
see also Interview
with Christine Brewer