RECORDING OF THE MONTH

From the Old World to the New

Charles Martin LOEFFLER (1861-1935)
Quatre PoŤmes, op.5 [20:56]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Zwei Gesšnge, op.91 [9:41]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Three Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano [9:17]
Two Pieces for Viola and Piano [6:38]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson [29:20]
Karina Lucas (mezzo), Rebecca Jones (viola), Simon Lane (piano)
rec. Turners Sims Concert Hall, Southampton, UK, August 2009
SONIMAGE SON11101 [76:05]
 
This was a really interesting and inspired choice of programme to put together and one that works so well. The songs chosen are truly delightful and once again Iíve been introduced to repertoire I hadnít known before. We have two composers from the new world bracketing two from the old and the first of those from the new, Charles Martin Loeffler is far too infrequently heard. I knew him only from a great VOX Box set of Unknown String Quartets. What is confirmed here is what a great composer he was and, in particular, how well he writes for the voice. He was one of the last of the American composers whose music could still be thought to be influenced by the ďoldĒ world. This is no surprise when you learn that he was born either in Germany or Alsace and was in his twenties before moving to the USA. With these settings of poems by Baudelaire and Verlaine dating from only ten years after his move to America he could easily be thought of as a European composer in the treatment he gives them. This is not meant in any way to be a criticism. What we have here are really beautiful songs and a gorgeous voice to sing them. Karina Lucasís voice is one of bell-like clarity and her diction is so impressive you can hear every word in all of the three languages sheís called upon to sing. Her French is superb and easy to follow even without the text in front of you as is the German; never mind the English. The Loeffler songs are followed by Brahmsí two songs op.91 and are equally beautiful. The Bridge songs which I didnít know are also lovely. While Karina has a well-deserved rest to catch her breath, before giving a fabulous outing to Coplandís wonderfully enjoyable Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, the two accompanists play Bridgeís Two Pieces for Viola and Piano. Itís a great performance of these two little musical gems. The Copland settings show that he had helped establish a real American musical voice thatís easily identifiable as such. They are such great songs. I canít ever remember hearing them better sung. Karina is very fortunate to be accompanied by two brilliant musicians whose playing is complementary to her voice. You get the real impression of a true partnership of equals. Simon Laneís pianism is superb and Rebecca Jonesí playing should prove another nail in the coffin of the viola bashers - silly people!
 
Steve Arloff
 
A true partnership of equals.