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The Kiri Te Kanawa Songbook
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) arr. Benjamin Britten The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation [8’29"]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Die Lorelei [6’19"]; Comment, disaient-ils [2’05"]; Oh, quand je dors [5’05"]; Pace non trovo [6’29"]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Cinq Mélodies populaires greques [7’50"]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Vocalise [5’03"]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916) La maja y el ruiseñor [6’13"]
Fernando OBRADORS (1897-1945) Cinco canciones clásìcas españolas [8’53"]
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano)
Roger Vignoles (piano)
Recorded; St. Peter’s Church, Morden, UK, April-May 1989 DDD


This reissue gives us a most welcome opportunity to hear Dame Kiri, one of the loveliest sopranos of her generation, in recital rather than in operatic repertoire. Moreover, here she is captured at the height of her powers.

The Purcell item sits a bit oddly here, as the only Baroque piece and, moreover, the only offering in English. However, Dame Kiri sings it very well. She uses her theatrical sense to excellent effect in the lengthy passages of recitative and in the aria sections she articulates the dotted rhythms precisely without ever sacrificing a seamless line.

Liszt is not a composer to whose music I warm in general. However, I enjoyed this group of his songs, not least because they are so persuasively sung. ‘Die Lorelei’ has a lovely, easeful Schubertian feel to it and I loved the touch of vulnerability that Dame Kiri brings to ‘Oh, quand je dors’

As you might expect, the poignant melancholy of Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ suits her voice to a tee. It’s sung with refulgent tone and beautifully spun long lines. Quite simply Dame Kiri gives a gorgeous performance. She also does the sultry Granados song very well, singing it flawlessly to my ears. Here, as throughout the disc, Roger Vignoles is a splendid and sympathetic partner.

The recital also includes two sets of arrangements of traditional songs. Ravel’s set of Greek folksongs is most effective and Dame Kiri sings the songs with freshness and charm. The languorous ‘Chanson des cueilleueses et lentisques’ (track 9) is a highlight after which she and Vignoles toss off the brief concluding ‘Tout gai!’ (track 10) delightfully. I don’t recall encountering before the little set of Spanish traditional songs arranged by Fernando Obradors but they are captivating miniatures and Dame Kiri performs them winningly. In particular I loved the penultimate song, the gentle, lyrical ‘Dell cabello más sutil’ (track 16).

This is a delightful disc, the programme is nicely varied and well chosen and, as I’ve indicated, beautifully performed by both artists. Sadly, no texts or translations are supplied, which is a pity since Dame Kiri sings in no fewer than five languages.

When this CD first appeared the distinguished vocal critic, John Steane, described it approvingly as "a rich ripe peach of a recital." I can only say "Hear, hear". Those collectors who, like me, are admirers of this gorgeous singer need not hesitate.

John Quinn

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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