A Portrait Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)
Shéhérazade for Soprano and Orchestra (1903)
[17:34] Pyotr I. TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893) Atchevo eta prezhde ne znala from Iolanta, Op. 69 (1891) [3:33] Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Song to the Moon from Rusalka, Op. 114 (1900) [6:30] Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826) Wie nahte mir der Schlummer … Leise, leise from Der Freischütz, Op. 77 (1817–1821) [8:40] Samuel BARBER (1910–1981)
Hermit Songs, Op. 29 (1953)
Emalie Savoy (soprano)
Brandenburg State Orchestra Frankfurt/Oder/Matthias Foremny Jonathan
Ware (piano: Barber)
rec. Frankfurt/Oder and Berlin, Germany, February 2016
Sung texts with English translations enclosed GENUIN GEN16436 [53:07]
American soprano Emalie Savoy’s career is obviously in full swing. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, is in great demand worldwide and has garnered in several prizes, including a First Prize at the 2015 ARD International Music Competition in Munich, which led to this recording. The programme is quite unusual with two song-cycles opening and closing the disc and three opera arias in between. She also demonstrates her versatility linguistically: French, Russian, Czech, German and English.
From the beginning she has one sitting up and pricking up one´s ears. This is a singer who has something to convey. Tristan Klingsor was a pen name, his real name was Léon Leclère; he wasn’t particularly fond of Wagner’s hero and anti-hero but liked the sounds of their names. His poetry is filled with beautiful sounds, with mystery and with fragrances. There is voluptuousness in Savoy's voice when she caresses the words in Asie, the magic in La flute enchantée and the warmth of L’indifférent. This, combined with the excellent playing of the orchestra–the instrumentation is Ravel at his very best–the first class recording and the beauty of this voice, make this one of the best readings of this cycle; and there are many good ones on my shelves.
The opera arias, requiring other characteristics, are just as good. We don’t hear Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta very often, but this, his last opera, is no poor step-sister to his better-known works. The aria is full-blooded Tchaikovsky in a committed reading of great intensity. Savoy's voice has that expansiveness needed to make the music tell. Rusalka’s Song to the moon has long been a favourite number for many sopranos and the current popularity of the full opera is well deserved. It is a wonderful score and this song is the brightest shining stone in Dvorak’s crown.
Weber’s Der Freischütz, on the other hand, has dropped in popularity, primarily because the libretto isn’t one of the world's literary masterworks. The music still has a lot to offer in a well sung performance, like the concert I heard some years ago at the Barbican, one of Sir Colin Davis’s last appearances. It is preserved on two CDs, which are a good investment. Christine Brewer is a good Agathe there but Emalie Savoy is just as good and she sings with such feeling that one can almost see her acting. This is glowing singing.
The concluding Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber are not too frequently heard these days. Even so, they are among the best modern cycles, concentrated–more than half of them are about a minute–remarkable, surprising. The first recording, with Leontyne Price and with the composer at the piano, will always remain the touchstone, and Cheryl Studer’s with John Browning from the 1990s (DG), is also remarkable. Emalie Savoy has the measure of them as well, and I hope this recording will open the eyes of other singers so they will be heard again. Jonathan Ware accompanies sensitively.
If this is Emalie Savoy’s debut recording–which I suppose it is–it is indeed a spectacular debut in every respect.