Canadian operatic soprano Lyne Fortin is well-known in her home
country, but relatively unheard of in Europe - her own website
does not give very much information about her, other than in
a somewhat indigestible form. This is in fact Fortin's first
appearance on this review site, and her third CD, all on Analekta,
itself a Canadian label.
All the songs on this release are either by Spanish composers
- Nin, Obradors, Torroba - or have a Spanish link, tenuous or
otherwise. They may perhaps be best considered in language groups:
Spanish, German and French. As a Francophone, Fortin is obviously
most natural performing in French, from the light-hearted Les
Filles de Cadix ('The Daughters of Cádiz'), one of Léo Delibes'
most popular songs, to Kurt Weill's Je ne t'Aime Pas,
which dates from 1934, shortly after Weill had left Germany
for Paris - a stand-alone song commissioned by and written for
the cabaret soprano Lys Gauty, to Maurice Magre's text. It is
part cabaret, part art song, melancholy and moving, a self-preservational
denial of love, and sung with great feeling by Fortin. The third
French song is Georges Bizet's popular Ouvre ton Coeur,
which, though the CD booklet notes do not even mention it, comes
from his unsuccessful 'ode-symphonie' Vasco de Gama,
written in 1860, and published posthumously. It is a boléro
with a Spanish flavour that is as slight as the poetry by Louis
Delâtre, but it is an infectious, cheery love song, and
Fortin does it justice.
The four Cantos Populares Españoles by Cuban-born composer
Joaquín Nin (or Nin y Castellanos, as he is sometimes known,
to distinguish him from his son Joaquín Nin-Culmell) come from
his set of twenty published in 1923. Short but atmospheric,
particularly the languid beauty of 'Asturiana', they are fairly
similar to the five slightly more substantial Canciones Clásicas
Españolas, which constitute Volume II of Catalan composer
Ferran (or Fernando) Obradors' four-volume cycle, consisting
of 23 songs altogether. These are songs of Catalan origin, though
sung in Castilian - full of essentially Spanish colour and rhythms
either way. Fortin performs both sets of songs with the flair
and enthusiasm of a native, and almost the same linguistic skills.
The final Spanish song comes from Federico Moreno Torroba, who
is best known for his guitar works and zarzuelas. The flamenco-inflected
La Vi Salir de Marbella ('I Saw Her Leave Marbella')
presumably comes from one of the zarzuelas - the booklet is
silent on the matter.
Turning to the German-language songs, Mädchenblumen
('Maiden Flowers'), four Felix Dahn songs by Richard Strauss,
will be familiar to many. Written between 1886 and 1888, they
are a young man's homage to youthful desires. Malven
almost sounds like an extension to the cycle, albeit with bolder
harmonies. In fact it was written six decades later in 1948,
Strauss's very last song - the unofficial Fifth, as it were.
It was dedicated by Strauss to Maria Jeritza, a soprano who
had pleased him in many leading roles in his operas, and it
was only rediscovered among her effects when she died in 1982,
and not premiered until 1985. It is altogether less demanding
than the last Last Song, Im Abendroth, but nevertheless
attractively lyrical. Fortin's German pronunciation is not quite
as good as her Spanish, but she sings these bright songs in
an appropriately insouciant manner. With her selection from
Hugo Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch, Fortin is following
in the steps of every lieder singer worth their salt, and acquits
herself very nicely, with Esther Gonthier a reliable, thoughtful
accompanist - as indeed she is throughout the recital.
Sound quality is excellent. The booklet is a collectors' item
in that it contains no photos of the soloists - in fact, no
photos at all: refreshing. Unfortunately, and rather unforgivably,
the booklet does not supply any lyrics - this is particularly
regrettable in the case of the song cycles by Nin and Obradors,
as this is likely to be many people's first exposure to them.
As an extra incentive - if the quality of the songs, excellent
singing and first-class pianism are not enough - the CD includes
a generous voucher entitling the purchaser to a free download
in mp3 or FLAC format worth $9.99 from Analekta's website.