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Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Songs - Volume 2
Sivan Rotem (soprano)
Jonathan Zak (piano), Danny Erdman (clarinet) (4), Hillel Zori (cello) (12)
rec. Jerusalem Music Centre, Jerusalem, Israel, 9, 18 February, 2, 19 March and 12 April 2015, except track 14 at the Classical Studio, Herzlia, Israel, 30 December 2015
Texts and English translations are available online
* premiere recordings
NAXOS 8.573696 [70:42]

Almost seven years ago I reviewed a Naxos disc with 26 songs by Meyerbeer, performed by the same artists as here. This follow-up adds another 18, of which four are first-time recordings. The majority of the songs are settings of French texts, four are German and two Italian. The poets are largely forgotten today but there is one poem by Wilhelm Müller (tr. 3), one by Ludwig Rellstab (tr. 4) and one by Gabriel Seidl (tr. 16) – all three poets also famously set by Schubert. La pauvre Louise (tr. 14) is a setting of a text by Sir Walter Scott, but in French translation. Schubert also set Walter Scott, albeit in German translation. There the connection between Schubert and Meyerbeer comes to an end. As a composer Meyerbeer is far inferior, his accompaniments often rather plain and his ability to weave words and music limited. That said, he does have other qualities, primarily that he is a far from negligible tunesmith – something we know also from his chief occupation as opera composer.

The songs span a period of almost thirty years and in subject they range ‘from the longings, joys and pain of romantic love to Arcadian idylls and religious themes’, to quote the comprehensive liner-notes by Robert Ignatius Letellier. As with the previous collection I found several songs that I will gladly return to for various reasons: The nice and melodious La Marguerite du poète (The Poet’s Daisy) (tr. 1) for instance with its nod to both Goethe and Schubert. Marguerite in Goethe’s Faust sings The King of Thule and Schubert set that poem. Die Rosenblätter (Müller) (tr. 3) has a thrilling accompaniment. Rellstab’s Hirtenlied (tr. 4) with clarinet, is another nod to Schubert and his Der Hirt auf dem Felsen. Then there's the beautiful A une jeune mère (tr. 5) and the lyrical Le Poète mourant (tr. 7). Près de toi (tr. 12) with cello is as beautiful as Sicilienne (tr. 13) is charming. Soave l’istante (tr. 15) is a setting of an anonymous poem. Why not lend your ear to this little gem? Maybe you’ll be hooked at once. Seidl’s Ständchen (tr. 16) is also worth a listen. As a matter of fact there is something in each of these songs that catches the interest, and the accompaniments – many of them at least – are not as penny-plain as I intimated in the opening paragraph.

Sivan Rotem is an experienced singer and she doesn’t over-interpret the songs or try to make them more important than they are. She lightens her tone admirably and avoids as far as possible pressing her lovely voice beyond her limits. Her tone is slightly more vibrant than it was on the previous disc but this is very fine singing indeed. Jonathan Zak, for many years a member of the Yuval Trio, has all the experience to make the most of the piano part and impresses greatly in powerful and virtuoso prelude to Le Voeu pendant l’orage (tr. 9).

Don’t expect the depth and accomplishment of a Schubert or Schumann, but these are melodious songs with sometimes fresh and unusual accompaniments, charming and entertaining. Readers who bought the previous volume can safely invest in the present one as well, and those who didn’t should give this one a chance.

Göran Forsling

Track listing
1. La Marguerite du poète [1:20]
2. Chant des Moissonneurs vendéens [2:31]
3. Die Rosenblätter [1:19]
4. Hirtenlied [6:16]
5. A une jeune mère [3:36]
6. La Fille de l’air [3:29]
7. Le Poète mourant [7:01]
8. A Venezia [4:44]*
9. Le Voeu pendant l’orage [7:42]
10. La Barque légère [4:12]
11. Sonntagslied [4:08]
12. Près de toi [5:38]
13. Sicilienne [4:08]
14. La Pauvre Louise [1:30]*
15. Soave istante [2:41]*
16. Ständchen [3:40]
17. Fantaisie [2:46]
18. Ballade dans la comédie “Murillo” [3:27]*



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