Toward the Light - The Voice of Elaine Huckle
Elaine Huckle (mezzo); Ian Clarke (piano)
rec. The Lodge Recording Studios, Northampton, UK, February 2008
Booklet with artists’ biographies in English, texts included in original language, without translations
Full track listing at end of review
RAVELLO RECORDS RR7848 [59.05]
 
The booklet notes for this disc tell us about Elaine Huckle’s first singing efforts. They took place at her local church when she was seven years old when she sang O Come all ye faithful. Apparently, her parents returned home in disbelief, aware for the first time that their daughter could sing rather well! She went on to study singing at London’s Trinity College and to tour with a band, performing at a variety of hotels throughout the country. We are also told that Ms Huckle stopped to care for her two children but eventually, upon advice from Shakespearean actor Sidney Bromley, she returned to singing. She became a member of the Pro Music Chorus in London and sang with the late Sir Charles Mackerras at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona. She was also part of a televised production of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini in Lyons. We are then told that she had coeliac disease, which mostly affects a person’s levels of energy. Besides this, a little later, Ms Huckle was diagnosed with breast cancer. After these events, one can fully grasp the meaning of this CD. To me, it represents her joy in being alive and her journey to recovery, in which music and singing seem to have played a crucial part.
 
Ms Huckle’s love of singing comes across, as does her positive attitude to life. It is moving to understand how she rejoices in music. You can follow, via her website, her unfaltering commitment to improve and her tireless work for charities that are close to her heart. She appears to be a determined, courageous woman and her fund-raising activities are undoubtedly commendable. This makes it all the more difficult for me to say that I did not enjoy her work in this recording.
 
Toward the Light is an ambitious project with works by such composers as Handel, Brahms, Schubert and even Wagner. Sadly Ms Huckle’s performance does not do justice to the music. That she is out of her depth and that this was an ill-advised repertoire choice becomes immediately apparent with the first track: Handel’s Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre from Joshua is a difficult piece. It requires a sparkling coloratura and impeccable technique neither of which Ms Huckle has yet achieved. The same can be said of How Beautiful Are the Feet from Messiah and Art Thou Troubled from Rodelinda. She follows Handel with Franck’s Panis Angelicus and Quilter’s June where she fares reasonably well. Then, we have Brahms and again she aims very high but does not quite reach her objective of beautifully delivering the composer’s rather charming songs. Wie Melodien zieht es mir lacks sentiment and Wiegenlied is too forceful. The next piece is the delightful Che farò senza Euridice from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice where once again she is out of her depth. Her delivery of the aria lacks refinement, sentiment and her legato is not yet assured. She bravely attempts to sing Schmerzen and Träume from Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder but her high notes are clearly screamed rather than sung. Her voice becomes strident with the strain. On occasions, she appears to resort to falsetto and it simply does not work. Finally, she sings Schubert’s Ave Maria, always a pleasant, popular piece. Here too I was a little disappointed. The voice lacks warmth, particularly in the high notes. Additionally, her diction is not very clear, even in English. She struggles with foreign languages, particularly German but also Italian.
 
Ms Huckle is ably accompanied on the piano by Ian Clarke who does a good, solid job throughout. His playing is capable and expressive. I found his delivery rather gratifying in some pieces, as for example, in Handel’s Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre.
 
The recording sound is of excellent quality, very clear and effectively engineered. The CD comes in a pleasant package, with photographs of evocative landscapes and in luminous colours, which suit the work and stress the meaning of the recital’s title Toward the Light.
 
While I did not enjoy the singing, I admire the singer’s tenacity and her absolute joy in performing such beautiful pieces. I hope that she continues to polish her delivery and improve her technique and perhaps, her next album will be a wonderful surprise!
 
Margarida Mota-Bull
Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at Flowing Prose. 

I admire Ms Huckle’s tenacity and her absolute joy in performing such beautiful pieces. 

Full Track Listing

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Oh, had I Jubal’s Lyre
from Joshua
How Beautiful are the Feet
from Messiah
Art Thou Troubled
from Rodelinda
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Panis Angelicus

Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
June

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Der Schmied
Op.19 No. 4
Wie Melodien zieht es mir
Op. 105 No. 1
Wiegenlied
Op. 49 No. 4
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Che farò senza Euridice?
from Orfeo ed Euridice
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Schmerzen, Träume
from Wesendonck Lieder
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria 
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