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Virgins, Vixens and Viragos
see end of review for track listing
Susan Graham (mezzo)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. 6-8 July 2012 Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales
ONYX CLASSICS 4105 [74:39]

This new Onyx Classics release from world famous mezzo-soprano Susan Graham gathers in nineteen songs with piano accompaniment under the title Virgins, Vixens and Viragos. I have most of Graham’s recordings and have especially enjoyed her La Belle Époque - The Songs of Reynaldo Hahn on Sony and C'est ça la vie, c'est ça l'amour - French Operetta Arias and the Songs of Ned Rorem, both on Erato. Ranging across almost three hundred years from Purcell’s The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation (1693) to Joseph Horovitz’s scena Lady Macbeth (1970) this disc covers a broad range of emotions.
Purcell’s The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation (1693) depicts the Virgin Mary’s torment when her twelve year old son goes missing. This is a marvellous extended song sung in English that really demonstrates Graham’s powerful mid-range. The four invocations to the Angel Gabriel are most confidently done. I especially enjoyed Berlioz’s La Mort d’Ophélie a setting of an Ernest Legouvé text. This is a paraphrase of Gertrude’s monologue from act IV of Hamlet relating to Ophelia’s death by drowning. Graham’s agreeable storytelling avoids the monotony that can often be found in other accounts. Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship) has been a bountiful source of inspiration for numerous composers especially the Austro/German Romantics. Graham has recorded six Mignon settings from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters each from the pen of a different composer. Two of these are notable: firstly with Graham’s conspicuous dark sorrow in Schubert’s Lied der Mignon: Heiß mich nicht reden.Secondly she conveys such aching beauty in Wolf’s Kennst du das Land which contrasts absorbing drama with comforting tenderness. Poulenc was a gifted writer for the voice and his song-cycle Fiançailles pour rire to texts by Louise de Vilmorin is highly attractive. All six French settings vary in metre and mood with the Graham doing full justice to their smooth elegance. Often used as an encore there is much to enjoy in the separate Poulenc setting Les chemins de l’amour,a waltz that formed part of the incidental music to Jean Anouilh’s romantic comedy Léocadia.
Graham is adept in communicating the meaning of the texts and as always her facility for tonal shading remains impressive as is the quality of her enunciation across the various languages. The only concern is the lack of one or two stand-out songs. That said, sensitive support is given by faithful accompanist Malcolm Martineau who never seems to put a foot wrong. The recital has been expertly recorded producing a well balanced sound.
Michael Cookson 

see also review by John Quinn

Track listing
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation (1693) [7:38]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
La Mort d’Ophélie (1842) [6:59]
Six Mignon songs from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister:
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Lied der Mignon: Heiß mich nicht reden, D. 877/2 (1826) [3:40]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
So laßt mich scheinen (1849) [2:19]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Mignons Lied [6:04]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Romance de Mignon [3:56]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt [2:59]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Kennst du das Land (1888) [5:39]
Joseph HOROVITZ (b. 1926)
Lady Macbeth (scena) (1970) [7:15]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Fiançailles pour rire (1939):
I. La dame d’André [1:29]
II. Dans l’herbe [2:21]
III. Il vole [1:48]
IV. Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant [3:08]
V. Violon [2:06]
VI. Fleurs [2:38]
Cole PORTER (1891-1964)
The Physician (c. 1930) [4:20]
Vladimir Alexandrovitch DUKELSKA aka Vernon DUKE (1903-1969)
Ages Ago [3:24]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Les chemins de l’amour (1940) [3:36]
Stephen SONDHEIM (b. 1930)
The Boy from Tacarembo La Tumbe del Fuego Santa Malipas Zatatecas La Junta del Sol y Cruz (1966) [2:50]

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