Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Longing eased

The songs of Brahms are much less known than his orchestral, piano or chamber music, and I think also much less known than the lieder of comparable quality from Schumann, or even Beethoven and Mozart, not to mention Schubert. This is a shame, but of course it's easily remedied. There are many beautiful recordings of Brahms lieder out there, which I plan on investigating when I've had my fill of this one, which is to say after a good long time.

This new disc from Skylark has many advantages. The songs chosen include some of Brahms' best. Individual songs are chosen from collections, and this allows some quality skimming as well as the building of a varied programme in terms of key, stories and mood. Additional variety comes from the solo works provided by pianist Jane Coop. This seems to be a trend in art song recordings, and I hope it continues. The piano is after all an equal partner with the vocalist in Brahms' songs, and the op. 117 Intermezzo are some of the greatest pieces in the piano literature. Finally, there's more tonal variety in the two op. 91 songs, with the addition of a beautiful viola line. The first of these, "Longing Eased", helps to give this CD its title. It is so beautiful, and a great example of the great team Coop and Soprano Donna Brown make, with able support here from violist Yariv Aloni.

I'm unilingual, which is my shame many times over, as a Canadian who should be up on both of our Official Languages, and as a classical music fan, who should know at least German, French, and (in my particular case) Brazilian Portuguese. But it's easy enough when listening to these songs to take one's cue from the title and the musical sense of each song. That's because of the sheer beauty of Donna Brown's voice, and the sensitive accompaniment of Coop and Aloni. This 2014 recital, recorded in Vancouver's Pyatt Hall, is one I'll be listening to often.

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