If you love lieder singing - and despair at how scarce they are becoming both in concert and on CDs - here's a recording to celebrate. The Swedish lyric soprano Miah Persson has an established career, especially in Mozart oepras, that reminds me of Barbara Bonney's when she first came to wider attention. Now 41, Persson is starting a bit late (so did Bonney) as far as releasing recordings, but she has a vibrant, instantly appealing voice. From the first notes of Schubert's marvelous Suleika D. 720, the ear is captivated. By a small margin Persson can't draw out the greatest variation in mood that great lieder interpreters like elisabeth Schwarzokpf and Janet Baker are capable of. But it almost doesn't matter given her natural musicality; I wanted to hear every song from start to finish.
The program is an appealing mixture of familiar Schubert and mostly unfamiliar Scandinavian songs by Grieg and Sibelius. These two names are the first to come to mind when non-Scandinavians think of music from the North, but except for a small handful of melodies, Grieg's song output is unfamiliar, and Sibelius has no beloved songs (that I know of) outside Finland. I can only remember two singers, Solie Isokoski and Barbara Bonney, who recorded this material in the past fifteen years or so. Persson rises to their level quite easily. So does Roger Vignobles, one of the best accompanists on the current scene. In one of Schubert's valedictory masterpieces, Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, which was indelibly imprinted in my mind by a famous recording with Benita Valente, Rudolf Serkin, and Harold Wright (once called the Heifetz of the clarinet), Persson and clarinetist Richard Hosford come as close to rivaling that account as anyone has in the past fifty years or so. Her breath control over long phrases sounds effortless.
In short, this recital is welcome balm at a time when song recitals are lean fare, especially ones sung as beautifully as it is here.
Here's the complete program:
Six Songs, Op. 48
Hjertets Melodier af H. C.Andersen, Op. 5 No. 3 'Jeg elsker Dig'
Suleika I, D720
Ganymed, D544 (Goethe)
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, D877/4
Rastlose Liebe, D138
Du bist die Ruh D776 (Rückert)
Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774
Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D965 (Von Chezy / Muller)
Våren flyktar hastigt, Op. 13 No. 4 (Text: Runeberg)
Den första kyssen, Op. 37 No. 1 (Text: J.L. Runeberg)
Var det en dröm? Op. 37 No. 4 (J.J. Wecksell)
Säf, säf, susa, Op. 36 No. 4 (Text: Gustav Fröding)
Flickan kom från sin älsklings möte, Op. 37, No. 5