Simple Gifts
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Kamirski
rec. South Melbourne Town Hall, 13-16 December 1993
Includes booklet with all words and translations
ABC CLASSICS 4811374 [66.37]
Born in Sydney in 1950, Yvonne Kenny made her professional debut in London in 1975 in a concert performance of Donizetti’s Rosmondo d’Inghilterra. After winning the renowned Kathleen Ferrier Competition she joined The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, singing the light lyric roles of Pamina, Susanna, Adina and Liu among others. In the field of opera she has appeared at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera as well as in America and at the major international festivals. She has a distinguished list of opera recordings to her name for a variety of labels including her Italian bel-canto portrayals for Opera Rara. Yvonne has also made several recordings for ABC and discs of Great Operatic Arias on the Chandos label.

This re-issue is of particular poignancy for two reasons. First, it commemorates the twentieth anniversary of being the first Australian-produced classical recording to achieve Gold status, awarded for sales of over 35,000 copies. Second, the content is her answer to her uncle’s 'crit' that he wanted to hear her in songs that he himself liked rather than the chic lesser-known, even esoteric repertoire, that was the staple of many artists' recitals at the time. Kenny resisted the temptation to branch into musicals, jazz or blues, sticking to what she believed she did best whilst also aiming to keep uncle happy. There are, after all, many beautiful songs to be heard in a whole variety of languages which by the time of this recording were often languishing unheard. In the days of 78s they were often on the B-side of an aria or the like. Here they are in a sequence, loosely linked in parts and generally in the gamut of languages in which they were written together with the words and English translations in the accompanying booklet.

In singing these songs Kenny brings the vocal distinction that she brought to her performances in the opera houses of the world and which has illuminated her teaching career as Professor of Voice at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her own skills in a variety of languages are in evidence in this collection as are her vocal qualities caught at the height of her career. There is a wonderful example of her renowned singing of Handel in Let the bright Seraphim from Samson (tr.6). The runs and scales are accurate, but more important is the tonal beauty and vocal clarity. Yes, as a consequence of the key of the music the odd consonant is missing, but far fewer than many I could mention. In this aria, and elsewhere, I was struck by how her vocal nuance, tonal variation and expressiveness convey the various sentiments and moods of the songs whilst maintaining her admirable legato. Add to this her beauty of tone and silvery grace with words. It's a near ideal combination which is at the heart of this collection of many tunes that we all know but sometimes just cannot place. At first I had a sorrow at the absence of any Mozart - a composer she recorded in complete operas. I would have loved her to have included Susanna’s Deh vieni from act four of The Marriage of Figaro but realistically, after nearly twenty years of filling the space of big opera houses all over the world, perhaps the capacity for phrasing on the breath in that lovely aria is not what it was. What she presents here I hope satisfied her uncle. It certainly has elevated my several days since its arrival. In value for money and sheer enjoyment this collection is very welcome again on my shelves.

Robert J Farr

Track Contents
Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Rusalka - Song to the moon [6.22]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Gianni Schicchi - O mio babbino caro [23.18]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Les Filles de Cadiz - Chanson Espagnole [3.12]
Ivor NOVELLO (1893-1951)
Perchance to Dream - We'll gather lilacs [4.12]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria [2.40]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Samson - Let the Bright Seraphim {5.14]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Panis angelicus [3.27]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Schwanengesang D 957 - no 4, Ständchen [3.52]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt. Op. 23: no 18. Solvejg's Song [4.44]
Zigeunermelodien (7), Op. 55: no 4, Als die alte Mutter (Songs my mother taught me) [2.26]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Songs, Op. 34: no 2, Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (On wings of song) [2.17]
Franz SCHUBERT (arr. Gamley)
Rosamunde D 797/Op. 26: no 5, Romance. Der Vollmond strahlt [ 2.50]
Giovanni Battist MARTINI (1741-1816) (arr. Whaite)
Plaisir d'amour [3.16]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879-1957)
Chants d'Auvergne Volume 1 - no 2, Baďlčro [4.54]
Traditional (arr. Gamley 1924)
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air) [3.26]
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)
Martha - Letzte Rose (The last rose of summer) [2.19]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Folksongs (7), Volume 3: no. 6. O waly, waly [3.26)
Traditional (arr. Hurst 1925-2014)
I know where I'm going [1.50]
Henry BISHOP (1786-1865) (arr. Gamley)
Clari - Home, Sweet Home [1.58]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Old American Songs. (trad) Set 1. Simple Gifts [1.54]

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