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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Laughter and Tears - A recital of 24 classical songs
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936) Notte; Storia Breve; Claude DEBUSSY (1862- 1918) Trois Chansons de Bilitis: La Flûte de Pan; Le Chevelure; Le Tombeau des Naïades; Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Le Bestiaire; Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Lachen und weinen; Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Die Mainacht; Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Seit ich ihn gesehen; Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) In dem Schatten meiner Locken; Jesus GURIDI (1886-1961) Como quieres que adivine; Xavier MONTSALVATGE Canción de cuna; Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) El Pan de Ronda que sabe a verdad; Fernando OBRADORS Del cabello mas util; Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) The Soldier’s Wife; How fair this place; Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) When Daffodils begin to peer; Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937) Carol of the Skiddaw Yowes; Michael HEAD (1900-1976) A slumber song of the Madonna; Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) The sky above the roof; Tired.
Helena Kean (mezzo); Graham Jackson (piano)
Private recording made at Shireshead Studios 26 and 27 October 2004 and available through HELENA KEAN www.music-and-images.co.uk [55:11]


This enterprising private recording was originally reviewed for Respighi Society News. I would suggest that this extended review is read in conjunction with the interview with Helena Kean on this site. The interview centres on how she came to know and love the music of Ottorino Respighi. The present album includes two of that composer’s songs - Notte and Storia Breve - both settings of texts by Ada Negri. They are enchanting and melodic proving once again – as if any proof was necessary – that there is far more to Respighi than just The Pines of Rome

In all these widely diverse songs Ms Kean’s diction is assured; she was formally trained as a linguist and speaks six foreign languages: Spanish, French, German and Italian, Greek and Russian. Her voice has a youthful purity, especially attractive in its mid-to-lower range. Her choice of repertoire demonstrates impressive versatility and her voice is nicely expressive. She is ably supported by Graham Jackson.

Helena Kean studied with contralto and teacher, Jean Allister and works with voice coach Mary Seaford in Lancashire. She has also studied with Stephen Varcoe, Margaret Cable and Tim Barrett at Hereford International Summer School and with Peter Gellhorn, Marjorie Thomas and Anthony Hocking.

Helena often works in collaboration with her mother who is a photographer and lecturer. They have combined their talents to create unique multi-media arts presentations (www.music-and-images.co.uk) Their innovative combination of classical song recitals with illustrated lectures on cultural aspects and photographic exhibitions has prompted their nomination for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award for bringing new audiences to classical music. Their programmes include: Spain: Heart of Fire; Italia Classica; La Belle france; Kean on Shakespeare; Austria: Music and Majesty; and A Garland for Christmas.

It is from the music for these presentations that this appealing programme has been compiled. The selection touches on both the familiar and not so familiar.

In addition to the two Respighi songs I would just mention a few I particularly enjoyed: the sensual, languid atmosphere of the Debussy songs, the dreamy romanticism of Rachmaninov’s How fair is this place, the vibrant Spanish rhythms and colours of Jesus Guridi’s Como quieres que adivine, the wry humour of Madeleine Dring’s jazzy Crabbed age and youth, Roger Quilter’s merry setting of Shakespeare’s When daffodils begin to peer, Michael Head’s lovely Christmas lullaby, A slumber song of the Madonna and the vocal challenges of Poulenc’s humorous Le Bestiaire evocations

An enjoyable privately recorded recital sung with freshness and charm.

Ian Lace

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