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Wie einst in schöner’n Tagen - Salonmusik der Belle Epoque
see end of review for track listing
Cathy Berberian (soprano); Bruno Canino (piano); Wolfgang Boettcher (cello); Karlheinz Zöller (flute)
rec. Studio Zehlendorf, Berlin, 26-31 January 1976
no texts or translations included
EMI CLASSICS 9123152 [79:50]

It is a delight to listen to music in the sort of conditions for which it was written. This disc attempts to replicate the kind of music and performance that might have been encountered at a concert in a salon in one of the great European cities in the nineteenth century, if one were lucky enough to be invited. Little of the music here is of great depth and much is intended simply to show off the performer’s virtuosity. Nonetheless there is abundant invention and good humour, and if the heart may at times be worn on the sleeve this is usually balanced by a twinkle in the eye, especially as performed here. 

The order of programme is arranged to maximise the variety of music and instruments for the listener. Thus it starts with an elegant cello solo - and ends with a rather more showy cello solo - followed by songs and piano pieces. The flute provides only two pieces but they are among the longest works on the disc. Borne’s Fantasy on themes from Carmen is good fun for the listener but Chaminade’s Concertino is more than that. It not only provides the flautist with all kinds of opportunities for display but also shows rare elegance within its comparatively brief span. Although it exists also in orchestral form there is much to be said for piano accompaniment as the orchestral scoring is too heavy at times, especially from the lower brass, obscuring much of the solo part in its lower register. Careful microphone balancing can get over this in a recording but the better solution is the piano version which also comes closer to its salon character. Both players here make the most of its opportunities for elegant musical conversation as well as for display.
 
Cathy Berberian gets the lion’s share of the disc with thirteen songs in all, although many are relatively brief. Although she is perhaps best remembered as a performer of twentieth century music she relishes all the very varied opportunities offered here. She finds a different approach for each of the many types of song included, gently exaggerating the various characteristics of the German, French and Italian items included. She managed to make me laugh in the Cat Duet once attributed to Rossini and which can sound a very laboured joke. Presumably it is the hard-working and generally admirable Bruno Canino who sings the part of the tom-cat who sings in duet with her. Last but by no means least of the performers is Wolfgang Boettcher, who plays with true intimacy and delicacy. All four perform with real style, elegance and wit, and are recorded in what sounds like an appropriate acoustic. The booklet contains an essay in German and English on salon music but no texts or translations.
 
This is a not a disc offering profound musical rewards or revelations. What it offers is intimate and sophisticated pleasure, and this is a rarity for which I for one am very grateful.  

John Sheppard
 


Track listing
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Wie einst in schöner’n Tagen Op. 64/1 [3:21]
Notturno Op. 41/3 [3:15]
Hungarian Rhapsody Op. 68 [8:34]
Philipp zu EULENBURG (1847-1921)
Rosenlieder [8:41]
Carl LOEWE (1796-1869)
Mädchen sind wie der Wind Op. 9.VI/4 [1:10]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Melodie in F Op. 3/1 [3:18]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Chanson du Bébé [2:28]
Cat duet [2:21]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Serenade Op. 29/2 [1:43]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
The sun whose rays (The Mikado) [2:27]
Horatio PARKER (1863-1919)
Shame upon you, Robin [1:30]
François BORNE (1840-1920)
Carmen-Fantasie [11:14]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Sicilienne Op. 78 [4:12]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
L’heure exquise [2:08]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
Concertino Op. 107 [7:40]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Chant du Ménestrel Op. 71 [3:51]
Francesco TOSTI (1846-1916)
Pianto di Monaca [2:50]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Gondoliera Op. 41 [5:52]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Stornello [2:03]





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