Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Le ricordanze [3:22]
De miei giorni (Delire) [2:46]
Il nascere e il fiorire d'una rosa [2:36]
6 canzonettes italiennes
No. 1. Sceglier fra mille un core [1:34]
No. 2. Da voi, da voi, cari lumi [2:40]
No. 3. Giura il nocchier [1:53]
No. 4. Bei labbri che amore [3:42]
No. 5. Se non ti moro allato [1:56]
No. 6. Basta dir ch'io sono amante [1:41]
La dame invisible [4:49]
Rachel à Nephtali [5:08]
Ballade de la reine Marguérite de Valois [2:50]
Sur le balcon [5:09]
Le baptême [2:24]
La folle de St Joseph [3:45]
Chant de mai [3:43]
Nella [3:18]
Komm, du schönes Fischermadchen [2:01]
Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube [1:58]
Hor ich das Liedchen klingen [1:14]
Suleika [2:37]
Mina [1:45]
Luft von Morgen [3:20]
Scirocco [1:33]
Frühling im Versteck [2:22]
Sivan Rotem (soprano); Jonathan Zak (piano)
rec. Jerusalem Music Centre, Jerusalem, Israel, 14-17 June, 2-4 August 2009
NAXOS 8.572367 [71:06]

Known best for his operas, with, perhaps, only Les Huguenots (1836) universally familiar, Giacomo Meyerbeer remains an important figure in nineteenth-century music. His legacy includes works in other genres, including songs. Meyerbeer’s songs connect directly to his operas and this recent Naxos recording makes a generous and accessible selection composed songs throughout his career. They set texts in various languages, including, French, Italian, and German. This Naxos disc begins with Italian canzonas that offer a sense of the composer’s approach to the idiom, with expansive vocal lines supported most often by a discreet accompaniment that neither overwhelms nor competes with the voice. This is as found in “Il nascere e il fiorire d’una rosa,” a piece that stands apart from the set of Sei canzonette italiane (1810), also included in this recording. The latter set of six songs stands out as the product of the nineteen-year-old composer.

With the French songs, Meyerbeer touches upon salon music, as found in “La Ballade de la Reine Marguérite de Valois” (1829), a piece that also relates to his operatic efforts by giving voice to an historic figure. Some of the chansons tend toward nineteenth-century convention, as found in the vocal line of “Sur le balcon” (1845), which is nonetheless effective with its use of short, expressive motifs to convey the text, and occasional melismas that seem like cadenzas for the singer to build into the performance.

Of Meyerbeer’s Lieder, the accompaniments are sometimes predictable in the voicing and patterning. Even so, they offer some engaging melodies that make then stand well with other songs of the era. “Komm, du schönes Fischermädchen” (1837) resembles some of the Humoresken of Löwe and yet does not sound derivative, with its evocation of popular-sounding elements. “Mina” (1837), with its subtitle that associates the piece with the songs of Venetian gondoliers, contains some vocalism reminiscent of Meyerbeer’s operatic work.

In approaching this unexplored literature, Sivan Rotem is effective. Her voice fits the demands of the music, which can be challenging, both in terms of register and also declamation. As a performer, she succeeds in creating the various moods and styles involved in this selection of pieces. She works well with Jonathan Zak. He must similarly execute a variety of accompaniments that sometimes require moments of pianism which alternate with more perfunctory supporting passages. His ability to support the voice is evident in the result, which is a unified effort in this persuasive set of performances. Through their efforts, Rotem and Zak make a case for performing Meyerbeer’s songs more often. They are good pieces that offer not only insights into the composer’s legacy but also add to our knowledge of solo song in the first half of the nineteenth century.

James L. Zychowicz

Good songs that offer not only insights into the composer’s legacy but also add to our knowledge of solo song in the first half of the nineteenth century.