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Nicolae BRETAN (1887–1968)
My Lieder-Land - The Songs of Nicolae Bretan Vol. 1
Ludovic Konya (baritone)
Ferdinand Weiss (piano)(1-6, 15-22), Martin Berkofsky (piano)(7-14)
rec. live, concert, Tirgu-Mures, Romania, Autumn 1973 (1-6); live, Concert University of Maryland, USA, 28 March 1976 (7-14); Radio Cluj, Romania, 16 June 1974 (15) and 23 June 1975 (16-17); Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA, August 1974 (18-19); live, concert, Cluj, Romania, 20 November 1975 (20-22)
Sung in Romanian (1, 3-8, 10, 13, 18, 19, 21, 22) and Hungarian (2, 9, 11, 12, 14-17, 20)
Texts and translations enclosed
NIMBUS NI 5637 [73:16]

Experience Classicsonline

1. Inima (The Heart) [3:51]
2. Hazamegyek a falumba (I will return home to my village) [4:21]
3. Cucule, de ce nu vii? (Cuckoo, why don’t you return?) [2:25]
4. În fereastra dinspre mare (At the window on the sea) [2:14]
5. Cîntecul plugarului (Lament of the plow) [3:23]
6. Pe dealul Feleacului (On the hill of Feleac) [3:15]
7. Lasă-ţi lumea ta uitată (Forget your world) [2:38]
8. Peste vîrfuri (Above the trees) [3:31]
9. A fiam bölcsőjénél (At my son’s cradle) [5:38]
10. Rea de plată (The reluctant debt payer) [1:36]
11. Kidalolatlan Magyar nyarak (Unsung Hungarian summers) [5:38]
12. Legény kesergője (A young man’s outcry) [3:19]
13. În parcul Luxemburg (In Luxemburg Gardens) [3:44]
14. Kocsi-út az éjszakában (Night passage for carts) [3:26]
15. Húsz év mulva (After twenty years) [2:51]
16. Gyermekkor (Childhood) [2:36]
17. Kisvárosok őszi vasárnapjai (Small-town autumn Sundays) [3:42]
18. Linişte (Silence) [3:07]
19. Cînd amintirile … (When memories …) [3:52]
20. Párisban járt az ősz (Autumn slipped into Paris) [3:37]
21. Somnoroase păsărele (Sleepy little birds) [2:25]
22. Şi dacă ramuri bat în geam (And if branches beat against the window) [2:05]

It’s just a couple of months since I reviewed two discs with Ruxandra Donose (review) and Alexandru Agache (review) singing songs by Nicolae Bretan. Even more recently I have listened to a disc with sacred songs by Bretan (review), sung by the somewhat older Ludovic Konya. Those who have read my earlier reviews will know that I almost boiled over with enthusiasm – primarily due to the songs themselves, which have a music language all of their own, just as distinctive as Schubert’s or Schumann’s or Mahler’s, without in any way resembling those or other leading exponents of the European art song. Harmonically Bretan is firmly rooted in the 19th century, the accompaniments are mainly simple and supportive rather than being contrapuntal or leading an individual life of their own. It’s the melodic inventiveness and the direct communicative approach of the songs that go direct to the heart of the listener. After a few songs one has learnt his very suggestive way of turning a phrase, but that doesn’t mean that he is predictable. His songs are like the best folksongs: immediately appealing, simple but organically connected with the words. They are personal in the same way that Schubert’s and Mahler’s are and still full of surprises. Having listened to five volumes of Bretan’s songs I have to say that I have been immersed in his tonal world and it still fascinates me as much as it did when I heard the first few of them. Listening for hours is perhaps not recommendable, since many of the songs are slow and melancholy. Even though I hear turns that I recognize from earlier songs I never get a feeling that he is repeating himself and the melodic naturalness is so extraordinary, so stunningly beautiful that I never tire of it.

Several of these songs are also included in the programmes of Ruxandra Donose and Alexandru Agache, and this invites comparisons. Let me say at once that my enthusiasm for Donose and Agache has in no way waned but in many respects Ludovic Konya is even more inside the songs. He sings them with such feeling and inwardness and he has a way of caressing the melodies with honeyed suaveness that is wholly irresistible. He is sensitive to words and deeply engaged but he never – or rarely anyway – steps over the border; there is nothing lachrymose about his singing. In the songs where more robust tone and power is required he is just as apt and in the humorous songs, often gallows humorous, he is expressive.

I haven’t been able to find any biographical data about Ludovic Konya but even in the mid-1970s, when all these recordings were made, he had an elderly ring. Don’t misread me now – there is nothing worn or wobbly about his voice production and the impression varies from recording to recording, since, as can be seen from the header, the material is gathered from a number of occasions, many of them live concerts. For readers with an interest in singers from an earlier generation the name Heinrich Schlusnus might give an idea about his singing: constantly musical and expressive phrasing, exquisite soft singing and that sense of a voice that has been well nurtured throughout a long career. Through intelligent choice of repertoire he has retained the basic lyric qualities even though one hears that the singer may not be in the blossom of youth.

Practically every song has something special about it but it is natural that one gets favourites. Inima (tr. 1), for instance, strophic, extremely beautiful; On the Hill of Feleac (tr. 6); Forget Your World (tr. 7), like a revival hymn, the lullaby At my Son’s Cradle (tr. 9), the powerful and intense Night Passage for Carts (tr. 14), When Memories … (tr. 19), where the singer’s long legato phrases are impressive and Sleepy Little Birds (tr. 21). There is nothing artificial about these songs, and the readings are also very much alive, enhanced no doubt by the presence of an audience on most of the tracks.

This is however also the main drawback, since there is applause after almost every song. Nothing wrong with that on a live recital, though I prefer a well-behaved audience who save the applause until the end of each group of songs. For domestic listening it will probably be annoying in the long run and I believe that it would have been quite possible to edit out the clapping. The various venues with varying acoustics may also be a drawback to some listeners but this rarely detracts seriously from the enjoyment of the singing. The pianos are also a bit variable and Martin Berkofsky is the more positive of the pianists.

Göran Forsling

See review of Volume 2


Other Bretan reviews

My Lieder-Land Volume 1

My Lieder-Land Volume 2 RECORDING OF THE MONTH (April)

SONGS Ruxandra Donose (sop)

SONGS Alexandru Agache (baritone)

Sacred Songs

Horia - Opera

Golem, Arald - Operas




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