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Folk Songs
see end of review for track listing
Nora Gubisch (mezzo), Alain Antinoglu (piano)
rec. November 2013, Salle Colonne, Paris, France.
Sung texts and French and English translations enclosed
NAÏVE V5365 [65:00]

A cosmopolitan duo, she with Spanish and German ancestry, he of Armenian descent, seems an ideal combination for this programme. Spanish and German songs surround Berio’s Folk Songs covering almost the rest of the world, including one Armenian song.
De Falla’s cycle has reached wide popularity, sung not only by Spanish singers. Nora Gubisch's slightly vibrant, dark-tinted Carmen voice seems cut out for them, whether it be the joyous and intense Seguidille, a sad but not tearful Asturiana, the Jota, sung with a twinkle in the eye, a hushed and intimate Nana with enviable legato or the slightly ironic Canción.
The music of Fernando Obradors, a bit younger than de Falla, is hardly standard repertoire – but should be. Everyone hearing El vito for the first time will long to hear it again.
With Granados we are treading more familiar paths again. El tra la la y el punteado is most infectious and like El vito a true show-stopper.
That it is fifty years since Luciano Berio’s Folk songs were first heard – with Cathy Berberian for whom they were written – is almost incredible. They have become established modern classics and though Berberian’s readings are legendary there is room for others as well. In Stockholm, more than twenty years ago I heard Jard van Nes singing them and she later recorded them for Decca. Several others have also tackled them. Nora Gubisch certainly has the measure of the songs and the concluding Azerbaijan love song with a text that is impossible to translate, is a tour de force.
Back to Granados and La maja dolorosa, where she is up against a number of masterly singers from the past. I have deliberately not made any comparative listening but my reaction when hearing Nora Gubisch’s reading was that it was wonderful in its own right. If I like what I hear then I can honestly recommend the recording. If others think that someone else sings that particular phrase better – then let them think so. A reading can sometimes be very different but not necessarily better or worse than another. Just listen, for instance, to her beautifully soft singing in El mirar de la maja.
Sometimes there exist touchstone recordings that have set standards that are difficult to ignore. One such is Kathleen Ferrier’s 65-year-old recording of Brahms’ Op. 91 songs for contralto with viola and piano. It is unique for the moving quality of her voice and for the way the viola and the voice blend. Nora Gubisch has the masterly Gérard Caussé as her partner and they achieve a similar effect, which is fully valid. Moreover her reading of the encore, Wiegenlied, is so lovingly sung that no listener can remain untouched.
Alain Antinoglu’s accompaniments are excellent and the ensemble in the Berio songs is wonderful.
If the programme appeals to you there is no reason not to acquire this disc.
Göran Forsling
Track listing
Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
Siete canciones populares españolas
1. El paño moruno [1:11]
2. Seguidilla murciana [1:18]
3. Asturiana [2:11]
4. Jota [3:09]
5. Nana [1:46]
6. Canción [1:02]
7. Polo [1:35]
Fernando J. OBRADORS (1897 – 1945]
Canciones clásicas españolas
8. Aquel sombrero de monte [3:13]
9. El vito [1:43]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 – 1916)
10. El tra la la y el punteado [1:08]
Luciano BERIO (1925 – 2003)
Folk songs, for mezzo-soprano and seven instruments
11. Black is the colour (USA) [3:18]
12. I wonder as I wander (USA) [2:05]
13. Loosin yelav (Armenia) [2:19]
14. Rossignolet du bois (France) [1:25]
15. A la flemminisca (Sicily) [1:19]
16. La donna ideale (Italy) [1:26]
17. Ballo (Italy) [1:34]
18. Mottetu de tristura (Sardinia) [1:48]
19. Malurous qu’o uno fenno (Auvergne) [0:50]
20. Lo fiolaire (Auvergne) [2:41]
21. Azerbaijan love song (Azerbaijan) [2:27]
(with Gérard Caussé (viola), Raphaël Perraud (cello), Bastien Pelat (flute), Raphaël Sévère (clarinet), Iris Torossian (harp), Adrien Perruchon and Camille Baslé (percussion)
La maja dolorosa
22. ¡Oh muerte cruel! [2:40]
23. ¡Ay majo de mi vida! [2:09]
24. De aquel majo amante [2:54]
25. El mirar de la maja [2:37]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
Zwei Gesänge für eine Altstimme mit bratsche und pianoforte, Op. 91
26. Gestillte Sehnsucht [6:07]
27. Geistliches Wiegenlied [5:25]
(Gérard Caussé (viola))
28. Wiegenlied, Op. 49 No. 4 [1:43]