For far too long, Elly Ameling (who, according to the enclosed booklet, recently celebrated her 70th birthday) has been under-represented on CD. In fact she still is (Columbia Masterworks, please note!)
There are those who maintain that her voice lacked weight and her singing drama. True, her reach occasionally exceeded her grasp (i.e., Brahms's Von ewiger Liebe). On the other hand, she never actually tackled Tosca or Isolde, and her rendition of Schumann's Frauenliebe und leben is deeply moving without her ever resorting to the sort of trickery or italicizing favored by Dr. Schwarzkopf - and, if the folks at Philips ever get around to re-releasing it, her reading of Ravel's Sheherazade is masterful.
There is simply no way to over-praise this collection. In retrospect, Mme. Ameling seems like one of the greatest and most treasurable artists of the twentieth century: a light and flexible voice of great natural beauty, allied to a natural musicality and sensitivity (Irwin Gage once described her as having a "fantastic literary imagination"), very much in the sorely-missed tradition of Elisabeth Schumann rather than the current one of Barbara Bonney. There is a generous selection of Baroque material, a handful of Mozart arias and Haydn songs (not enough, though), Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf (sung with refreshing simplicity), just enough French repertoire to leave you in awe but nowhere near satisfied, and quite a bit of cabaret material.
Mme. Ameling's command of languages is remarkable. True, she retains a slightly Dutch inflection, but it is not uncharming and never detracts from her impeccable diction and deeply felt understanding.
A word about her cabaret excursions: whatever you may think of "crossover" albums, she was one of a few to really take the plunge and engage the services of a genuine jazz pianist and bassist rather than hiding behind the over-produced arrangements of, say John Williams. Call it Elly Sings Ella - I'd certainly pay good money to hear her at the Carlyle or the Algonquin....(and, while I'm on that subject, the highest possible praise for each and every one of Mme. Ameling's accompanists).
A musician's singer, a singer's musician, an artist's artist. Thank you, Philips, for this invaluable collection!
And thank you, Elly Ameling, for the gift of your incomparable artistry.