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Classical Barbra
see end of review for track listing
Barbra Streisand (vocals)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Claus Ogerman (piano) (3, 8, 11, 12)
rec. 1973 released on LP in Feb 1976 as CBS 73484. Schubert tracks added to CD
Sung texts and English translations enclosed
SONY CLASSICAL 88691922552 [40:14]

Barbra Streisand, born 1942, is one of the most successful singers and actors in the history of American Showbiz. I still remember her in Funny Girl, which I believe was her film debut. As a singer she sold ‘more than 71.5 million albums shipped in the United States and 145 million records sold worldwide’ (Wikipedia). She had catholic tastes and her foray into classical music was probably not dictated by commercial reasons but was a result of her interest in the genre. She loved these songs to such a degree that she opted for them to be sung in the original keys and in a few of them accompanied by piano. For the rest Claus Ogerman provided suitable orchestral arrangements but the excerpt from Carmina burana is performed in Orff’s original version.
 
Barbra Streisand had in those days a beautiful and expressive voice and her vocal range was quite astonishing. What is lacking though is true dynamic width. Most of the songs and arias are slow, restrained and contemplative and heard one or two at a time this is no serious drawback, provided one can accept a voice that is considerably smaller than a schooled operatic voice. However, a whole programme in the same vein in the end becomes rather monotonous. The opening Debussy song, certainly one of his best and most loved, is atmospheric, inward - and beautiful, actually three adjectives that are recurrent in my notes. There is very little that stands out, that makes you sit up and prick up your ears. Fauré’s Pavane, is an orchestral piece, which also exists in a version with chorus and Ogerman adds a chorus here. The solo singing is wordless and this is one of the tracks that I will return to, probably for late night listening with a glass of dark red claret at hand. In trutina from Carmina burana is also worth a listen but, however beautiful, there isn’t that angelic otherworldliness with which Gundula Janowitz invests the song on the legendary Jochum recording.
 
The two concluding Schubert songs were not included in the original LP release, though they were recorded at the same time as the rest of the contents. The playing time is rather short so there would have been plenty of room for them even on the LP but I can understand why they were suppressed at the time. They are rather pale and the piano accompaniment is mechanical with clangy piano tone. At least one of them, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, she sang later in 1973 on her TV special Barbra Streisand ... and Other Musical Instruments.
 
The original album was not released until February 1976. One can wonder why. But it was a commercial success and by 1999 it had sold 550 000 copies. It was even nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Album in 1976.
 
The presentation is a little sloppy. There is a rather long essay about the album by David Foil and there are historical and musicological notes for each of the songs and also the lyrics and English translations are printed. On the other hand there are no playing times for the individual tracks and no total timing for the album either, so I have provided them.
 
Lovers of Barbra Streisand should, in spite of my reservations above, consider a purchase. Those wanting a nice collection of popular classical songs expertly sung by a ‘traditional’ Lieder singer should look elsewhere.
 
Göran Forsling

Track listing
Claude DEBUSSY (1862 - 1918)
1. Beau soir [2:42]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879 - 1957)
2. Brezairola [3:47]
Hugo WOLF (1860 - 1903)
3. Verschwiegene Liebe [2:57]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 - 1924)
4. Pavane [5:29]
5. Après un rêve [3:24]
Carl ORFF (1895 - 1982)
6. In trutina (from Carmina burana) [2:11]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1759)
7. Lascia ch’io pianga (from Rinaldo) [3:37]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 - 1856)
8. Mondnacht [3:56]
George Frideric HANDEL
9. Dank sei dir, Herr [3:42]
Claus OGERMAN (b. 1930)
10. I loved you [2:18]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
11. An Sylvia [2:50]
12. Auf dem Wasser zu singen [3:14]