Author Topic: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD  (Read 368103 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #620 on: July 20, 2021, 11:08:42 PM »
Of all the performances I’ve heard of Les nuits d’été, I have to say my favorite is the Gens on Erato:



Some may not like Gens’ lighter voice or feel that perhaps her performance lacks the kind of heft this work needs or whatever kind of criticism you want to give the performance, but I for one believe this to be one of the strengths of her performance. Her delivery is, most of all, heartfelt. She soars with ease over the Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Lyon, but it’s important to note that the accompaniment from Louis Langrée is not without mentioning. He soars with Gens in all the right places and lays back when he knows it’s appropriate. He doesn’t overpower Gens and this is something that I think is important to understand, especially in an orchestral song cycle or concerto.

Some other favorite Les nuits d’été performances and a few brief notes:



I rate Hunt Lieberson (or is it just Lieberson?) quite highly. The only negative is the audio quality, but it’s a live recordings and there are some moments of instability in the fidelity and sometimes an audience member coughs rather loudly to where it’s a bit of a distraction, but Lieberson carries the day with her gorgeous voice. Her range was phenomenal and, like Gens, I felt every note she sung.



I won’t say a whole lot here as this is a well-regarded classic for a reason. Baker could sing Foster's Swanee River and I’d be there in the front row. The woman had a set of glorious pipes on her. Everything sounds well-articulated and her partnership with Barbirolli was always special. A bonafide classic without a doubt.

I don't share your enthusiasm for the Gens version, I'm afraid, which seems to me lightweight and lacking in any depth. If anything, I'm with Ralph Moore, who says in his survey for Music Web International, http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2019/Aug/Berlioz_nuits_survey.pdf

Quote
The advantage of Gens being a native French-speaking lyric soprano is most obvious in the two light
songs  which  frame  the  collection  but  her  voice  is  simply  too  light,  thin  and  frail  to  fill  out  the  four
slower,  more  soulful  songs  satisfactorily  and  I  derive  little  pleasure  from  hearing  a  twittery  rose
announce its arrival from paradise; Gens is all too typical of the modern idea that a lyric soprano devoid
of a proper lower register can do these songs justice. She croons and whispers her way through these
lovely songs in superficial manner. No thank you

Most of the speeds are far too fast and the work emerges as just a group of pleasant songs. She is at the opposite pole from singers like Janet Baker and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Gens gets such a good press for just about everything she does that I felt sure I was going to enjoy her performance. In the event I was sorely disappointed and would place her a distant eleventh in my recent survey of ten different versions.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2021, 07:40:43 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #621 on: July 21, 2021, 05:44:09 AM »
I don't share your enthusiasm for the Gens version, I'm afraid, which seems to me lightweight and lacking in any depth. If anything, I'm with Ralph Moore, who says in his survey for Music Web International, http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2019/Aug/Berlioz_nuits_survey.pdf

Most of the speeds are far too fast and the work emerges as a just a group of pleasant songs. She is at the opposite pole from singers like Janet Baker and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Gens gets such a good press for just about everything she does that I felt sure I was going to enjoy her performance. In the event I was sorely disappointed and would place her a distant eleventh in my recent survey of ten different versions.

You see you bring up points that actually make me give Gens even higher praise, especially in terms of the overall tempi chosen and the lightness of Gens’ voice. She provides this listener with a pleasing alternative to Lieberson, Baker or Balleys. There’s a good review on MusicWeb that makes some good points:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Jan02/Berlioz_Gens.htm

Of course, it’s our own ears that are the judges at the end of the day and I felt that Gens’ performance touched my heart and I’ve always loved her voice. It’s kind of like you and Maria Callas. I’m no fan of Callas after hearing her in many different performances, but it seems people are quick to defend her whenever someone doesn’t enjoy what she does or her voice. In my case, I accept that Gens’ interpretation isn’t for every one and I can certainly understand the criticisms from you and people like Ralph Moore, but what struck this listener was the sincerity of the performance and the emotion in her delivery.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #622 on: July 22, 2021, 02:50:51 AM »
You see you bring up points that actually make me give Gens even higher praise, especially in terms of the overall tempi chosen and the lightness of Gens’ voice. She provides this listener with a pleasing alternative to Lieberson, Baker or Balleys. There’s a good review on MusicWeb that makes some good points:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Jan02/Berlioz_Gens.htm

Of course, it’s our own ears that are the judges at the end of the day and I felt that Gens’ performance touched my heart and I’ve always loved her voice. It’s kind of like you and Maria Callas. I’m no fan of Callas after hearing her in many different performances, but it seems people are quick to defend her whenever someone doesn’t enjoy what she does or her voice. In my case, I accept that Gens’ interpretation isn’t for every one and I can certainly understand the criticisms from you and people like Ralph Moore, but what struck this listener was the sincerity of the performance and the emotion in her delivery.

I'm sorry. I do hope I didn't upset you. I'd heard quite a few good things about Gens' performance and had assumed I would enjoy it; and I did enjoy her singing of Villanelle, but the very fast tempo adopted for Le spectre de la rose already alienated me and the song didn't make anywhere near the emotional impact I want it to. I don't think the songs really suit a soprano, and of the soprano versions I do own, Steber and De Los Angeles have particularly rich lower registers, though, like Gens, De Los Angeles is more successful in the outer songs than the middle ones.

« Last Edit: July 22, 2021, 02:53:27 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #623 on: July 22, 2021, 05:36:27 AM »
I'm sorry. I do hope I didn't upset you. I'd heard quite a few good things about Gens' performance and had assumed I would enjoy it; and I did enjoy her singing of Villanelle, but the very fast tempo adopted for Le spectre de la rose already alienated me and the song didn't make anywhere near the emotional impact I want it to. I don't think the songs really suit a soprano, and of the soprano versions I do own, Steber and De Los Angeles have particularly rich lower registers, though, like Gens, De Los Angeles is more successful in the outer songs than the middle ones.

There’s no need to be sorry as you didn’t upset me. :) As I wrote, I completely understand all the criticisms I’ve read about Gens’ performance, but, you see, I love her voice and whether her voice was ‘right’ for this song cycle didn’t matter to me. What mattered was how the performance affected me. Everything we write about music is subjective. What is successful for one listener isn’t for another, but one thing we can agree on is that this song cycle is exquisite and one of Berlioz’s most gorgeous musical creations.

I’ll add that I also listened to the famed Crespin/Ansermet performance, but it did absolutely nothing for me and I wasn’t impressed with her voice all that much. A classic case of being overhyped, IMHO and this is something that further illustrates my point about how we all hear music differently.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2021, 05:40:09 AM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #624 on: July 22, 2021, 06:24:42 AM »

I’ll add that I also listened to the famed Crespin/Ansermet performance, but it did absolutely nothing for me and I wasn’t impressed with her voice all that much. A classic case of being overhyped, IMHO and this is something that further illustrates my point about how we all hear music differently.

On that I agree with you completely, and, oddly enough so too do Ralph Moore and the Berlioz scholar, David Cairns. The Ravel Shéhérazade that it is coupled with is superb, but the Berlioz has always struck me as being rather dull, lugubrious and uninteresting.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #625 on: July 22, 2021, 06:41:24 AM »
On that I agree with you completely, and, oddly enough so too do Ralph Moore and the Berlioz scholar, David Cairns. The Ravel Shéhérazade that it is coupled with is superb, but the Berlioz has always struck me as being rather dull, lugubrious and uninteresting.

Yes, indeed. The Ravel fares much better.
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Offline André

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #626 on: July 22, 2021, 09:15:58 AM »
Gens takes almost a minute longer in Le spectre de la rose in her second recording of Nuits d’été. In fact, she is slower in all but one song (Au cimetière). All told, 28 mins vs under 26. The voice has become richer in the medium, which suits some of the songs, but not the high-lying ones where she is not as free on top as before.

Berlioz didn’t intend them to be sung as a cycle - at least not at first - and the mix of genres, from high-lying chirpy spring song to full blown tragic aria for low voice is hard to encompass both vocally and dramatically. I’ve heard it in concert twice: the vocal and facial changes involved are a challenge for the singer and somewhat disconcerting for the listener. The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for any single-voice version to do justice to the cycle.

I’ve sampled extensively about a dozen I didn’t know and the picture hasn’t really changed. From what I’ve heard Hunt Lieberson, von Stade and Brigitte Balleys (with Herreweghe) seem the most promising. I’ve read Musicweb’s Ralph Moore’s extensive recension of some 42 recordings and I find his reviews to be on the money for some, all wet for others. There is simply no consensus possible when it comes to that work.

Offline Cato

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #627 on: July 22, 2021, 09:23:40 AM »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #628 on: July 22, 2021, 06:51:16 PM »
Gens takes almost a minute longer in Le spectre de la rose in her second recording of Nuits d’été. In fact, she is slower in all but one song (Au cimetière). All told, 28 mins vs under 26. The voice has become richer in the medium, which suits some of the songs, but not the high-lying ones where she is not as free on top as before.

Berlioz didn’t intend them to be sung as a cycle - at least not at first - and the mix of genres, from high-lying chirpy spring song to full blown tragic aria for low voice is hard to encompass both vocally and dramatically. I’ve heard it in concert twice: the vocal and facial changes involved are a challenge for the singer and somewhat disconcerting for the listener. The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for any single-voice version to do justice to the cycle.

I’ve sampled extensively about a dozen I didn’t know and the picture hasn’t really changed. From what I’ve heard Hunt Lieberson, von Stade and Brigitte Balleys (with Herreweghe) seem the most promising. I’ve read Musicweb’s Ralph Moore’s extensive recension of some 42 recordings and I find his reviews to be on the money for some, all wet for others. There is simply no consensus possible when it comes to that work.

Interesting. Thanks for the feedback, Andre. Didn’t Berlioz also specify that these songs not be sung by a particular voice type? That, in fact, he preferred different vocal ranges for different songs? Oh and, yes, Brigitte Balleys is fantastic in this work or, at least, I think she does a great job.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Favorite vocal recitals on CD or DVD
« Reply #629 on: July 23, 2021, 01:03:54 AM »
Gens takes almost a minute longer in Le spectre de la rose in her second recording of Nuits d’été. In fact, she is slower in all but one song (Au cimetière). All told, 28 mins vs under 26. The voice has become richer in the medium, which suits some of the songs, but not the high-lying ones where she is not as free on top as before.

Berlioz didn’t intend them to be sung as a cycle - at least not at first - and the mix of genres, from high-lying chirpy spring song to full blown tragic aria for low voice is hard to encompass both vocally and dramatically. I’ve heard it in concert twice: the vocal and facial changes involved are a challenge for the singer and somewhat disconcerting for the listener. The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for any single-voice version to do justice to the cycle.

I’ve sampled extensively about a dozen I didn’t know and the picture hasn’t really changed. From what I’ve heard Hunt Lieberson, von Stade and Brigitte Balleys (with Herreweghe) seem the most promising. I’ve read Musicweb’s Ralph Moore’s extensive recension of some 42 recordings and I find his reviews to be on the money for some, all wet for others. There is simply no consensus possible when it comes to that work.

I find I agree with Ralph Moore more often than I don't, so he's become a fairly reliable guide for me. I really don't understand the praise that has been heaped on the Balleys version. I can't quite get past the sound of the voice itself and I don't like it at all, I'm afraid. It's interetsing that Moore's thoughts on recorded versions of the cycle also tend to tally with those of the Berlioz scholar, David Cairns in Song on Record II.

I know that the songs weren't originally planned as a cycle, but Berlioz did eventually group them all together and I think they make a very satisfying progression with two lighter songs framing four profoundly moving ones. The given order also works best, as demonstrated by Régine Crespin who unaccountably places Absence before Sur les lagunes. I have the multi singer Davis version, which is interesting, but I actually prefer the unity a single voice brings to the work. I also prefer those singers who can bring the necessary weight and depth to the middle songs, which means I tend to prefer a mezzo in the music, and, after all, it is mezzos who have generally been more successful in the work, always excepting soprano Eleanor Steber, who, in any case, had a very rich and firm lower register.

I have only just acquired the Von Stade version as Moore makes it his prime recommendation, but I haven't managed to listen to it yet. For the moment, my top three are Baker with Barbirolli, Hunt Lieberson with McGegan and Steber with Mitropoulos.
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