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Voyage … A Journey in Song
Ayelet Amots-Avramson (mezzo soprano)
Jonathan Zak (piano)
No recording details
Texts and translations included
ROMÉO RECORDS 7321 [72:09]

The voyage of the title is through language and geography but the milieu, whether more or less sophisticated, is folk song. The Israeli duo of Aylet Amots Avramson and Jonathan Zak take an imaginative approach to programming, taking in French, English, Portuguese, Hungarian, Ladino and Spanish thus travelling from Slovakian region of Zvolen, where Bartók collected his songs, to the South America of Villa-Lobos and Ernani Braga as well as other locations.

One of those others is Greece, via Ravel’s French-language settings, which are deft and compact and full of church and bridal richness. Britten’s well-known settings make less of an impression. Her mezzo is rather too insistent and prone to be a little matronly at the bottom of the register. The Salley Gardens lacks repose and The Ploughboy is distinctly unwitty, not helped by Jonathan Zak’s insistence at the piano. It seems to have been difficult for Avramson to scale down her voice for these settings, as The Trees They Grow So High is decidedly unwieldy, The Last Rose of Summer operatically-scaled and Oliver Cromwell a mismatch between song and performers from start to finish. The Brazilian folk songs are considerably better. They suit the warmth of her voice, whether in the appropriate richness and sense of flow generated in Braga’s arrangement of A Casinha Pequenina or in the tangy rhythms of Mondinha, the parlando conclusion of O’Kibimbá or indeed the appropriately declamatory Engenho novo!

Of her Bartók, the pick, in terms of performance, is the Lullaby. Linguistic matters hardly intrude in the Sephardic Romances of Yehezkel Braun, the German-born composer who was taken to what was then Palestine at the age of two by his parents. These languorous settings are charmingly evocative, lyrical, and immediately attractive. The best performance in the disc is of Morenica a mi me llaman; the singing here seems to prove liberating. The two Obradors Spanish folk songs were part of Kiri Te Kanawa’s repertoire and Kathleen Battle has sung them too; unfortunately, Aylet Amots Avramson can’t replicate their tenderness and vocal colour; she’s not helped by the recording, which gives her singing a strident edge.

In fact, Roméo doesn’t disclose the location of the recording but it’s dry and quite tiring to listen to over a stretch, and exacerbates the occasionally resinous qualities of the performances in a very much hit-and-miss recital.

Jonathan Woolf


Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Cinq mélodies populaires grčcques (1906) [8:25]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Folksong Arrangements: The Salley Gardens [2:53]: The Ash Grove [2:42]: The Trees They Grow So High [4:40]: The Plough Boy [2:02]: The Foggy, Foggy Dew [2:29]: The Last Rose of Summer [4:12]: Oliver Cromwell [0:50]
A Casinha Pequenina arr. Ernani Braga [2:58]
Mondinha arr. Heitor Villa Lobos [2:06]
Vióla quebrada arr. Heitor Villa Lobos [4:48]
Cancăo dom poeta do século XVIII arr. Heitor Villa Lobos [2:49]
O’Kibimbá arr. Ernani Braga [2:23]
Estrella é lua nova arr. Heitor Villa Lobos [1:15]
Engenho novo! arr. Ernani Braga [1:49]
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Falun, Three Village Scenes, for female chorus & chamber orchestra, arr mezzo and piano, Sz. 79, BB 87b (1926) [12:09]
Yahezkel BRAUN (1922-2014)
Three Sephardic Romances: Durme, durme [2:29]: Esta Rachel la estimoza [2:36]: Morenica a mi me llaman [3:52]
Fernando OBRADORS (1897-1945)
Cinco canciones clásěcas espańolas: Del cabello más sutil [2:19]: Coplas de Curro Dulce (1921) [2:50]



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