Shape of my heart (Sting) [4:02]
Hush, no more (Purcell) [2:49]
If Love's a sweet passion (Purcell) [2:52]
Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen) [4:08]
Remember the time (Michael Jackson) [3:42]
Bella Olimpia (Banchieri) [2:10]
Le Chant des oyseaux (Janequin) [5:36]
Crazy little thing called love (Freddy Mercury) [2:50]
Your song (Elton John) [4:22]
If Music must be the food of love (Purcell) [2:33]
Dindirindin (Anonymous) [2:39]
Love of my life (Freddy Mercury) [3:22]
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone (Bill Withers) [3:06]
Lasciatemi morire (Monteverdi) [2:20]
Always look on the bright side of life (Eric Idle) [2:42]
Feritevi, ferite (Schütz) [3:16]
(Arrangements by Ludwig Böhme, Mia Makaroff, Sebastian Krause and Matthias
rec. May 2012, Echolux Tonstudio Leipzig
CARUS 83.379 [55:05]
This is very much outside my usual experience of Carus discs. The label has
earned a good reputation for German vocal music of the sixteenth to eighteenth
centuries in particular, and many have been reviewed on this site. Here, however,
I see the names Mercury, John and Withers and append the forenames Freddie,
Elton and Bill, and I think to myself: a baroque cantata by the Academy trained
Elton John? Seems unlikely.
What we do have is a recital by the Calmus Ensemble of music across the centuries
presented to ‘transport’ the listener and persuade him that madrigals,
pop songs and baroque classical pieces lie ‘so close to each other’.
Looking at their interests shows a group keen on Renaissance polyphony and 1920s
chanson: a flexible group, then, but how successful are they in persuading one
that Leonard Cohen can lie down - musically speaking - with Claudio Monteverdi?
Not very, I’m afraid. There’s no point taking a work of ambiguous
erotic intensity like Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love and convert
it to Weimar parlando. A greater sin is to ruin Cohen’s rhythm, his intricate
verbal dexterity, and to impose wordless curlicues.
Elton John’s Your Song gets a cutesy reading courtesy of Ludwig
Böhme who is credited with most of the arrangements. Soprano Anja Pöche
has by far the best English but the men mangle the words so that ‘some
of the werses gat me kvite kroz’. Love of My Life is a nice Freddie
Mercury song that survives neither arrangement nor performance. The worst is
yet to come, so stand back for Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright
Side of Life, which you need to do when you hear what the Calmus Ensemble
does with it. I took a near-terminal breath.
The classical things are much better; decent, sensitive Purcell, OK bird imitations
in Janequin, predictably effective Schütz. There are little ‘interludes’
between some of the tracks - modulating moments where they go vocally from one
track to another to establish a new mood, much as nineteenth century pianists
use to modulate between pieces, especially to establish keys.
I’m afraid this just didn’t work for me. I was indeed transported
but not, I fear, in the way intended. The vocal quintet - soprano, counter-tenor,
tenor, baritone and bass - just need far better arrangements, far more musical
discretion, and a much more acute sense of self-criticism.
I’m afraid this just didn’t work for me.