If the Owl Calls Again
Christianne Stotijn (mezzo)
Antoine Tamestit (viola), Joseph Breinl (piano), Rick Stotijn (double bass), Oliver Boekhoorn (duduk)
rec. 2013/14, Amuz, Antwerp, Belgium
Full sung texts and English translations included. WARNER CLASSICS 5419 639375 [63:13]
A highly accomplished Lieder interpreter Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn first came to my attention when I reviewed her 2006 Stoke d’Abernon recording titled Urlicht a stunning recital of fifteen Mahler songs with the accompaniment of renowned pianist Julius Drake on Onyx. Also worthy of praise is Stotijn’s 2011 release Stimme der Sehnsucht comprising Lieder by Pfitzner, Strauss and Mahler recorded at Neumarkt, Bavaria and also issued on Onyx.
Now Warner Classics Stotijn has released this album inspired by the poem from a book of American verse by John Haines that she found in a New England bookshop. It seems that Haines poem about owls stirred Stotijn to “to search for songs which embody wisdom.” This collection of mainly twentieth-century songs consists of mostly unfamiliar repertoire that stretches as far back as Modest Mussorgsky going forward to the contemporary works of Fant de Kanter. The sung texts are diverse too in English, French, German, Dutch, Hebrew, Armenian and Russian all concerned with elemental themes of nature and religion. In addition to the usual single piano Stotijn has chosen more varied accompaniment including viola, double bass, flute, duduk and an instrumental ensemble.
Austrian composer Joseph Marx is represented by two charming works. Scored for viola and piano I especially admire the sense of isolation and outdoor feel to Durch Einsamkeiten and the highly romantic Adagio accompanied by double bass and piano is an agreeable work. There are three works from Russian Nationalist composer Mussorgsky a writer of songs throughout his career. With Stotijn singing to piano accompaniment only I found the song Prayer consoling and thoroughly enjoyed the performance of The Soul Flew Quietly Through The Celestial Skies. Contemporary Amsterdam-based composer Fant de Kanter wrote three songs all prayers especially for Stotijn. There is Abboen for unaccompanied mezzo, Onbot with viola accompaniment and Arapka with a double bass played by the mezzo’s brother Rick Stotijn. None of the three songs left much of an impression on me. Performed by the members of the Oxalys ensemble are the Quatre poèmes hindous by Maurice Delage a Parisian who was a student of Ravel. Certainly amenable works these are mainly dreamy and rather atmospheric with the plucked cello in Lahore: Un sapin isolé sounding like a sitar.
Born in the French Basque country, Ravel a Parisian by adoption, wrote a number of songs and included here are his Deux mélodies hébraïques. Based on the Jewish prayer the song Kaddisch employs an Armenian duduk here which spoilt the overall effect for me. Swiss composer Frank Martin lived in the Netherlands for many years. Stotijn has selected Martin’s Trois Chants de Noël accompanied by flute and piano all rather attractive works, well contrasted in mood and splendidly performed. Frenchman André Caplet whilst studying the Paris Conservatory beat Ravel to the Prix de Rome but is primarily known today as an orchestrator of Debussy’s works. In Caplet’s Écoute mon coeur Stotijn is accompanied by a lovely solo flute which makes for a pleasant if somewhat inconsequential work. The greatest delight of the collection for me is the Three Songs for viola and piano from Frank Bridge an English composer schooled under Sir Charles Stanford at the Royal College of Music, London. I loved the tender passion of the song Far, Far From Each Other with its undertow of melancholy and Where Is It That Our Soul Doth Go with its theme of death is suitably heartrending. Stotijn gives a captivating display in the undemanding third song Music When Soft Voices Die with its abundance of summery warmth.
Together with her secure intonation Stotijn’s greatest asset is her natural warmth and dark, mellow timbre. Her diction and phrasing is splendid and given the right song her expressiveness can be striking. Stotijn moves fluidly through her range and I admire the way the mezzo imbues her performances with real personality. In addition she has the advantage here of impeccable instrumental accompaniment. The sound quality is excellent with a warm rich sound, good clarity and balance. Sensibly for a song recital Warner Classics has included full sung texts with English translations in the booklet.
No problem whatsoever with Stotijn’s excellent voice but apart from a few exceptions I find the repertoire generally weak and I doubt ‘If the Owl Calls Again’ will be on my CD player all that often. Michael Cookson
Track-Listing Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
1. Durch Einsamkeiten
Antoine Tamestit (viola), Joseph Breinl (piano) Fant de KANTER (b. 1969)
Antoine Tamestit (viola)
Rick Stotijn (double bass) Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
6. Evening Prayer
7. The Soul Flew Quietly Through The Celestial Skies
Joseph Breinl (piano) Maurice DELAGE (1879-1961)
Quatre poèmes hindous:
8. Madras: Une belle
9. Lahore: Un sapin isolé
10. Bénarès: Naissance de bouddha
11. Jeypur: Si vous pensez elle
Oxalys Ensemble: Shirly Laub (violin), Frederic d'Ursel (violin), Elisabeth Smalt (viola), Martijn Vink (cello), Toon Fret (flute), Lieve Goossens (flute), Piet Van Backstal (oboe), Nathalie Lefèbvre (clarinet), Julien Bénéteau (clarinet), Annie Lavoisier (harp) Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Deux mélodies hébraïque:
Oliver Boekhoorn (duduk), Rick Stotijn (double bass), Joseph Breinl (piano)
13. L'énigme éternelle
Joseph Breinl (piano) Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Trois Chants de Noël:
14. Les cadeaux
15. Image de noël
16. Les bergers
Toon Fret (flute), Joseph Breinl (piano) André CAPLET (1878-1925)
17. Écoute mon coeur
Toon Fret (flute), Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Rick Stotijn (double bass), Joseph Breinl (piano) Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
19. Far, Far From Each Other
20. Where Is It That Our Soul Doth Go
21. Music When Soft Voices Die
Antoine Tamestit (viola), Joseph Breinl (piano)