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Voyage … A Journey in Song
Ayelet Amots Avramson (mezzo-soprano)
Jonathan Zak (piano)
rec. The Classical Studio, Herzliyah, Israel, no recording dates given
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
ROMÉO RECORDS 7321 [72:09]

Five years ago I reviewed a disc with songs by Brahms, Mahler and Alban Berg with these two artists. Though I had some objections I rounded off the review “I derived a lot of pleasure from this programme.” I don’t know when either of the discs was recorded, since there are no recording dates given in the booklets, but probably some time must have passed since the previous disc, because I noted a slightly edgy tone that I couldn’t remember on the first disc. But the singing is well-modulated and carefully nuanced, and in the second Ravel song Lŕ-bas, vers l’église she is soft, warm and inward with expert pianissimo singing. Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques (tr. 4) is a beautiful melody and the singing is lovely. In the final song Tout gai! (tr. 5), which is more outgoing, the vibrato widens and the tone becomes more strident at nuances over mf. In spite of my reservations this is however an agreeable reading of these Greek folk songs.

Turning then to Britten’s harmonizations of British folksongs, Ms Amots-Avramson sings a beautiful Salley Gardens, and The ash grove with some thrilling seasoning is fresh and inspiring. Indeed it seems that she is more on the same wavelength with Britain than with France and Greece. The sparse accompaniment in the Somerset song The trees they grow so high is a kind of resting point before the lively The Ploughboy, with energetic, even bombast accompaniment and it is delivered with intensely expressive singing. Contrasts again: The foggy, foggy dew is sensitively phrased – exquisite indeed! The last rose of summer. Irish like The Salley gardens, has a decidedly autumnal mood, sadder than the Flotow version. A lament that rhymes well with the text. Oliver Cromwell is a rumbustious finale to this group, sung with tongue in the cheek and virtuosity.

These songs are well-known, not only to British audiences. The Brazilian folksongs are a lesser-known quantity, I believe, but in arrangements by Ernani Braga and Heitor Villa-Lobos they are agreeable acquaintances, and the concluding Engenho novo! is a wholly charming homage to a new sugar machine!!!

The Bartok songs, from the Zvolen district in Slovakia, are the results of his avid collecting of folksongs, not only from Hungary but also Bulgaria and, as here, Slovakia. Bartok takes some time to come to terms with, but Lakodalomr (Wedding) (tr. 22) and the wild Legénytánc (Lads dance) (tr. 24) are good starting points, in particular the latter with its intense rhythms and hilarious piano part is the most immediately catching of them and the performances are generally excellent. The Sephardic Jews were Jewish people in Spain from the early Middle Ages. Their music had a very special mood and they are sung here in a very special dialect. These are songs to come back to for their ancient flavour, even though Yehezkel Braun may have adjusted them to more modern times. Fascinating they are anyway.

The two Spanish folksongs by Fernando Obradors are easier to assimilate at once. Del cabello más sutil (tr. 28) has a melody to treasure and a text to match, while Coplas de Curro Dulce is full of Spanish flavour.

Folk music as basis for art songs is a valuable source and here we are treated to a wide spectrum of inspirational music from various parts of the world. They vary a lot between themselves but in the end they create a unit of world music that is hard to resist.

Ms Amots-Avramson’s readings are very attractive and Jonathan Zak, whom I have experienced as accompanist on numerous occasions, never lets things down. This is a voyage I will resume with pleasure!

Göran Forsling

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1937)
5 Greek Folk Songs:
1. Chanson de la Mariée (Song of the bride) [1:34]
2. Lŕ-bas, vers l’église (Yonder, at the church) [1:32]
3. Quel gallant m’est compar5able (What dandy can compare with me) [0:56]
4. Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques (Song of the girls gathering mastic resin) [2:42]
5. Tout gai! (All are happy) [0:57]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 – 1976)
Folksong Arrangements:
6. The Salley Gardens (Irish tune) [2:53]
7. The ash grove (Welsh tune) [2:42]
8. The trees they grow so high (Somerset Folk Song) [4:40]
9. The Ploughboy (Tune by W. Shield) [2:02]
10. The foggy, foggy dew (from Suffolk) [2:29]
11. The last rose of summer (Irish tune) [4:12]
12. Oliver Cromwell (Nursery rhyme from Suffolk) [0:50]
Brazilian Folksongs:
13. A Casinha Pequenina (The small house) (arr. Ernani Braga)[2:58]
14. Modinha (Arr. Heitor Villa-Lobos) [2:06]
15. Vióla quebrada (The broken guitar)(Arr. Heitor Villa-Lobos) [4:48]
16. Cancăo do poeta do século XVIII Song by an 18th century poet) (Arr. Heitor Villa-Lobos) [2:49]
17. O’Kinimbá (Arr. Ernani Braga) [2:23]
18. Estrella é lua nova (The star is a new moon) (Arr. Heitor Villa-Lobos) [1:15]
19. Engenho novo! (New machine!) (Arr. Ernani Braga) [1:49]
Béla BARTÓK (1881 – 1945)
Falun – Village scenes (Songs from the Zvolen district in Slovakia):
20. Szénagyüjtéskor (Haymaking) [1:16]
21. A menyasszonyná (At the brides) [1:32]
22. Lakodalomr (Wedding) [2:52]
23. Bölcsödal (Lullaby) [4:18]
24. Legénytánc (Lads dance) [2:11]
Yehezkel BRAUN (1922 – 2014)
3 Sephardic Romances:
25. Durme, durme (Sleep, sleep) [2:29]
26. Esta Rachel la estimoza (It is Rachel, the estimated) [2:36]
27. Morenica a mi me llaman (They call me blackie) [3:52]
Fernando OBRADORS (1897 – 1945)
2 Spanish Folk Songs:
28. Del cabello más sutil (From your fine hair) [2:19]
29. Coplas de Curro Dulce (Couplets by Curro Dulce) [2:50]

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