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Open Your Heart
Laura Claycomb (soprano)
Marc Teicholz (guitar)
rec. Skywalker Studios, August 2006
Sung texts and English translations enclosed DELOS DE3483 [52:20]
Laura Claycomb has a vast and many-sided discography, going back to the late 1990s, but this is obviously her first solo disc. One can wonder why it had to wait a full decade before it was issued – unless this is a reissue. It is indeed a very unusual and interesting programme on the theme “Open Your Heart” that mixes music from various countries and times. It focuses mainly on the 20th century – only Bizet and Debussy belong to the previous century.
Philadelphian Marc Blitzstein is probably best known for his pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock which, directed by Orson Welles, was shut down by the Works Progress Association in 1937. The two songs that open this recital are much later, from a song cycle premiered in 1960, From Marion’s Book, settings of poems by E. E. Cummings. Relatively few of Blitzstein’s works are heard today, and to judge from these finely wrought songs it would be interesting to explore the rest of the cycle as well. I remember a disc with Dawn Upshaw singing American songs, I Wish It So from 1993, which included two by Blitzstein, who incidentally was murdered during a visit to Martinique.
The Debussy songs are from an altogether different time and world: slightly perfumed and diffusely drowsy but colourful in a water-colour manner. The intimacy of the melodies makes them well suited to guitar accompaniment and Laura Claycomb’s reading of them is truly heartfelt. Colourful, but more brightly lit in oil are de Falla’s Siete canciones populares espańolas. In these often heard and recorded songs the composer strives to evoke a feeling of a guitar in his accompaniment, and they sound deeply authentic this way. This is not the first time someone has essayed this solution. Teresa Berganza and Narciso Yepes did the same in 1975 with equally good results. Berganza’s deeper voice is more Iberian, but Ms Claycomb’s lightness of tone is a welcome alternative in these generally idiomatic and personal readings. The Spanish soil is certainly there, especially in Jota (tr. 8), delivered with vibrant intensity. Likewise the concluding Polo (tr. 11) has typical Spanish flavour.
Mátyás Seiber was born in Budapest, where he studied with Zoltán Kodály. His musical interests ranged from folk-songs to jazz. He spent most of his adult life in the UK. Being a Jew he had to flee from the Nazis in 1935. The four French folk songs are delectable. The last of them tells of Marguerite who has been drinking all her life and will continue until the very end.
Heitor Villa-Lobos is no doubt the most famous Brazilian composer of art music, but like many of his Latin-American colleagues he employed native folk material. Modinha is a lovely little love song and the well-known Aria from his Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 is a fine example of his merging of the European tradition and his native roots. The Aria has been heard in dozens of different versions. The original with soprano and cellos will never be supplanted but the arrangement with guitar is Villa-Lobos’ own and Ms Claycomb sings it so sensitively. An original in its own way.
William Walton wrote Anon in Love for Peter Pears and Julian Bream in 1959. The texts are from anonymous 17th and 18th century poets, hence the title of the cycle. The music is moderately modern but not insurmountably so. Laura Claycomb obviously relishes this juxtaposition of old and new. In I gave her cakes and I gave her ale the guitar is also used as a percussion instrument. There is flair and vividness in this delicious cycle.
The final song, Bizet’s Spanish-flavoured bolero Ouvre ton Coeur ties together the end with the opening. This enticing programme should open the hearts of many potential listeners.
Track listing Marc BLITZSTEIN (1905 – 1964)
1. open your heart [2:30]
2. until and I heard [1:17] Claude DEBUSSY (1862 – 1918)
3. Mandoline [1:55]
4. En sourdine [3:55] Manuel de FALLA (1876 – 1946)
Siete canciones populares espańolas:
5. El pańo moruno [1:26]
6. Seguidilla murciana [1:26]
7. Asturiana [2:08]
8. Jota [3:19]
9. Nana [1:31]
10. Canción [1:16]
11. Polo [1:31] Mátyás György SEIBER (1905 – 1960)
Four French Folk Songs
12. Réveillez-vous [2:29]
13. J’ai descend [2:13]
14. Rossignol [3:03]
15. Marguerite, elle est malade [1:02] Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887 – 1959)
16. Modinha [2:06]
17. Aria (Cantilena) (from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5) [5:01] William WALTON (1902 – 1983)
Anon in Love:
18. Fain would I change that note [3:24]
19. O stay, sweet love [1:44]
20. Lady, when I behold the roses [2:08]
21. My love in her attire [0:43]
22. I gave her cakes and I gave her ale [1:53]
23. To couple is a custom [1:41] Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
24. Ouvre ton Coeur [2:58]