music concerts by Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.
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Ritchie Symphony 4
Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief
Hendricks - Orchestral
BERLIOZ (1803 - 1869)
Les Nuits d’Été [33.11]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913
Les Illuminations [23.06]
Maurice RAVEL (1875
Melodies hébraïques [5.29]
Mélodies populaires grècques [6.16]
en forme de habañera [2.31]
Henri DUPARC (1848
L’Invitation au voyage [4.22]
pays où se fait la guerre [4.44]
vie antérieure [4.10]
Manoir de Rosemonde [2.10]
Chanson Triste [3.21]
English Chamber Orchestra/Colin Davis (Berlioz, Britten)
Lyons Opera Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner (Ravel, Duparc)
rec. 1-3, 6 October 1992, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road,
London (Berlioz, Britten); 13-15, 17-18 October 1988,
Eglise-Forteresse Sainte Marie Madeleine de Perouges (Ravel,
2344022 [56.18 + 55.28]
is a double CD set which assembles two of Barbara Hendricks
recitals of orchestral songs. It is part of a series of
Barbara Hendricks reissues on EMI Classics. The others
cover Mozart Arias, Nordic Songs/Wolf, Sacred Arias and
first disc of the set is one she released in 1994, performing Les
Nuits d’Été and Les Illuminations with the English
Chamber Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis. The second
disc is a 1989 release where she sings Ravel and Duparc
songs with the Lyon Opera Orchestra under John Eliot Gardiner.
the names of other singers flit into the mind when considering
these various song-cycles; for instance both Régine Crespin
and Janet Baker have recorded well admired versions of
Berlioz and Ravel’s Shéhérezade. The reasoning
behind a reissue such as this is perhaps more to create
a portrait of a valued artist than to provide replacements
for library recommendations.
has spent most of her working life based in Europe and
is very much associated with French music. She also has
an attractive, but very distinctive voice. This has a rather
creamy texture, with the combination of a pronounced but
tight vibrato and a fine sense of line. But there is also
an element of coolness to the voice; it does not respond
well to pressure, creating rather a fluttery effect in
the upper region.
Davis is inevitably a safe pair of hands in which to place Les
Nuits d’Été and he does not disappoint, though the
speeds are rather slower than some of his earlier performances.
I don’t think that these tempi always suit the lyric nature
of Hendricks’ voice, where a darker one might have benefited
more. I would imagine that a fleeter, lighter performance
would enable Hendricks to bring out more. As it is she
is beautifully passionate and not a little languorous.
But sometimes she is rather too cool. Though she brings
out the words she does not impress them into vibrancy in
the way that someone like Crespin does. There are many
occasions when the results are simply beautiful, but in
a way which makes you long for something more, especially
in the songs which ask for a deeper passion. Berlioz originally
anticipated these songs being performed by a group of different
voices and there is a sense that no single singer can bring
everything to every song.
Illuminations is an interesting
companion for the Berlioz, pointing up surprising links
and commonalities. The link with the Berlioz also makes
you wonder what a Régine Crespin performance of the Britten
might have been like!
work suits Hendricks voice well - it is a piece where lightness
and clarity are necessary. Davis proves himself a very
apt accompanist in this as much as in the Berlioz. But
though Hendricks projects the line with beauty and good
diction, she never seems to relish the words in a way which
I think is required.
the second disc, Hendricks and Eliot Gardiner give us Ravel’s Shéhérazade, Deux
Mélodies hebraïques, Cinq Mélodies populaire grècques and
a selection of Duparc’s songs.
Hendricks Shéhérazade is
quietly beautiful. The slight coolness I mentioned above
seems to suit Ravel’s style and she is entrancing in the
way she captures the languor and longing in the songs.
She is neither voluptuous like Crespin nor rich like Baker.
But in a way not captured in the Berlioz, she manages to
suit her style brilliantly to the work. The other Ravel
works are on a similar plane and Hendricks is well accompanied
by Eliot Gardiner and his players. The Lyon Opera Orchestra
contributes some superb playing and gives the music a delicacy
and transparency which is entirely apt to Hendricks.
the Duparc songs, the general level of music-making remains
on this high level. Each song is beautifully characterised,
but I longed for a richer, warmer voice. I associate mezzo-sopranos
with this repertoire. Yet a light lyric soprano like that
of Hendricks just does not quite manage to imbue the songs
with the feeling of romantic longing.
of these recordings would be my first library choice, but
all have something to be said for them. As a set they add
up to a fascinating portrait of a talented and well-loved
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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