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Natasha Marsh – Amour
1. Craig LEON (b. 1952) Si un jour (from Jean de Florette) [4:00]
2. Erik SATIE (1866–1925) Gymnopédie No. 1 [3:39]
3. Alfredo CATALANI (1854–1893) Ebben? Ne andro lontano (from Adriana Lecouvreur) [3:43]
4. Nino ROTA (1911–1979) Ai giochi addio (love theme from Rómeo et Juliet) [3:24]
5. Joseph KOSMA (1905–1969) Autumn Leaves [3:47]
6. Luis BACALOV (b. 1933) Mi mancherai (theme from Il postino) [4:12]
7. Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924) Chanson d’amour [2:01]
8. Jimmy WEBB (b. 1946) He Moves, and Eyes Follow [3:26]
9. Ewan MacCOLL (1915–1989) The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face [3:10]
10. John RUTTER (b. 1945) Et misericordia (from Magnificat) [4:36]
11. Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879–1957) La delaissado (from Songs of the Auvergne) [4:30]
12. Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643) Pur ti miro (from L’incoronazione di Poppea)*[3:45]
13. Leo DELIBES (1836–1891) Les filles de Cadiz [3:27]
14. Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943) Vocalise [4:05]
Natasha Marsh (soprano)
Fernando Lima (tenor)*, London Symphony Orchestra/Francois-Xavier Roth (1, 3, 4, 6, 11); Craig Leon (2, 5, 8-10, 12-14); Michael Francis (7); London Voices/Terry Edwards (10)
All tracks produced, arranged and mixed by Craig Leon, except 11, arranged by Joseph Canteloube
rec. Abbey Road Studios. No recording dates available.
EMI CLASSICS 374 93526 [51:51]

Being tucked away in the arctic region I had not come across Natasha Marsh. When I received the pre-issue disc – just plain white with a large M on it, no jewel case, no booklet – I searched the internet and soon found her website. The photos showed a pretty young woman with film star looks. My first thought was that here was someone the company wants to launch as a singer based on her exterior. “How prejudiced I am”, was my next thought. “Why not give her a chance first?” So I put the disc in the player and glanced through the track-list. A mixed bag, no doubt, with quite a few songs I didn’t know, rubbing shoulders with the odd aria, even a baroque opera duet and a couple of well-known encores from concert singers’ repertoires.
The first track revealed a pretty voice, closely miked in what seemed like artificial acoustics. A small voice, wasn’t it? She tended to resort to crooning and there were some scoops up to notes. Not an operatic voice, more a musical artist like Sarah Brightman but not as bright, a little more husky. The next track, an arrangement of Satie’s piano piece Gymnopédie No. 1, was recorded more distantly and she used more of her full voice. Not so small after all – and she didn’t need to push for the high notes. It was clearer too – but she still scooped. The aria from La Wally, territory of big-voiced divas like Tebaldi and Callas, seemed an unwise choice, but even though her timbre was light she could muster enough power to make the music tell. Someone – Craig Leon it turned out – had tampered with the orchestration and made it more small-scale and couldn’t imagine her singing it in a large opera house. From opera to movie: Nino Rota’s love theme from Zefirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, had her back on top of the microphone. A beautiful song – and a beautiful voice, with a tendency to be shrieky when too much pressure is put upon it. There followed more, predominantly slow songs, prettily sung no doubt, but now halfway through the disc I started feeling sleepy. Of course there was variation. In Kosma’s Les feuilles mortes from 1945, sung here in Johnny Mercer’s English version, she showed another peculiarity, not uncommon today: she started a tone straight, with no vibrato, and then gradually putting more pressure on it to achieve a more vibrant sound. I rather liked it – it felt genuine.
Among the highlights was Et misericordia John Rutter. During my choral singing days we used to sing quite a lot of Rutter, both carols and more large scale works, his Requiem a special favourite. This movement from his likewise fine Magnificat is a wonderful piece with the soprano soaring above the chorus. The Canteloube song, in the original orchestration – many thanks for that! – with its atmospheric introduction was a track to return to, while I didn’t warm especially to the final duet from L’incoronazione di Poppea, according to some scholars possibly by Cavalli. I would have liked the lively middle section more sharply contrasted. Tenor Fernando Lima sported an agreeable voice. Then, at last, came the refreshing contrast, the rhythmically invigorating Les filles de Cadiz by French ballet master Leo Delibes. This has long been a favourite with sopranos, from Lily Pons via Victoria de los Angeles to the new star Ana Maria Martinez who included it on her recent recital for Naxos. Natasha Marsh showed that she can be expressive, she had a trill and she finished on a thrilling top note. Brava!
Rachmaninov’s Vocalise needs a fine legato and golden tone, and that was what it got in Ms Marsh’s reading. When summing up my impressions of this recital I could state that hers is a quite beautiful, lyrical voice with potential but at least in this programme she wasn’t allowed to show the full scope of her ability.
The professionalism of the LSO and the London Voices can never be questioned but the sound-picture in itself feels overly manipulated. It’s a studio sound – not a stage sound, and maybe in the last resort this is a signal as to the potential target group for the disc. The booklet has, besides more fine pictures, personal comments on the music by Ms Marsh but little else, not even timings of the individual tracks.
It’s pretty and sweet and often beautiful and occasionally there is a flash of lightning to put life in the proceedings but in the main there is too much icing and too little cake.
Göran Forsling




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