Echoes of Nightingales CD
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Œuvres de Homer, McArthur, Kramer, Tyson, Ronald, Rogers, Carpenter, Sargent, Youmans, Nordoff, La Forge, Bridge, Firestone, Romberg, Flotow, Vicars, La Montaine, Arlen, Bernstein, Charles & Dougharty / Christine Brewer, soprano - Roger Vignoles, piano
This extraordinary disc brings together songs by predominantly American composers that were used as encores by four sopranos who were hugely popular in the US from the 1930s to the 60s Kirsten Flagstad, Eileen Farrell, Helen Traubel and Eleanor Steber. The astonishing Steber could sing just about anything. The other three were Wagnerians Flagstad, of course, being the greatest though Traubel also notoriously annoyed operatic authorities by singing cabaret. But all four ended their US recitals and broadcasts with either songs from the shows, salon numbers or sentimental ballads by the likes of Idabelle Firestone and Mildred Lund Tyson. Brewer, in tremendous voice, carves out a niche as their successor, partly because the majestic quality of her delivery equals theirs, but more importantly because she, like they, has the ability to make this repertoire live and breathe without sounding mawkish. The high points there are many include Frank La Forge's Hills and Sweetheart from Sigmund Romberg's Maytime. And Brewer's pianist, Roger Vignoles, sounds as if he's thoroughly enjoying himself. --Guardian,14/04/11
A recital as unusual and varied as it is charming and deftly executed. GRAMOPHONE RECOMMENDS. --Gramophone,Jun'11
Top Customer Reviews
Sadly this disc falls short in both repertoire and performance. Many of the songs are dreary and instantly forgettable. But the big problem is the size of Christine Brewer's voice. These minor items are given the full ffff treatment, especially on rising phrases and climaxes: and they won't stand it. To listen to a fine song such as Will You Remember?, which was very nicely sung by people like Anne Ziegler and Jeanette Macdonald, attacked by Christine Brewer in full sail, is to witness something best avoided. She does manage to tone it all down for The Last Rose of Summer and a little item by Bernstein, but the general impression is of a voice that is just too big for this material. It reminds me a bit of the great Joyce Grenfell's skit on a famous contralto singing archly about fairies.
Her own encore, included at the end, is a very strange beast - a setting of a review of a song recital, itself not particularly amusing. I didn't understand why she thought it was worth doing.
I am afraid I cannot recommend this.
With musical values low, the big plus of the album is the marvelous programme notes of John Steane that meet his usual high standards of erudition on the topic of encores and their contexts. This little booklet tucked into this CD is one of the most evidently sincere and caring that's been issued anywhere. It's light years away from the crankouts that so often are yawn material in CD releases and it's unusual to find printed materials that are this superlative. The painting selected for the album cover reflects this care, too. It's just too bad Brewer wasn't suited for this assignment and that the intimacy and delicacy of "Some Other Time" wasn't kept as the lodestar for selecting the programme. A much more satisfying recital of this type (that doesn't mention encores) is Songs of the British Isles that floods us with warmth [available on Amazon at the time of this posting from 39 cents!)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In Brewer's words: 'This collection of songs was inspired by a long-time love of this mostly American repertoire. ... Stepping back into that era has been a joy to Roger and me, and I hope it will bring back memories to those who might have heard these women sing these songs, or perhaps ignite a new love affair for younger listeners!'
The complete list of songs and composers is as follows:
Sidney Homer (1864-1953): "Sing to me, sing," Op. 48
Edwin McArthur (1907-87): "Night"
Arthur Walter Kramer (1890-1969): "Now like a lantern," Op. 44, No. 5
Mildred Lund Tyson (1900-?): "Sea Moods"
Sir Landon Ronald (1873-1938): "O lovely night!"
James H. Rogers (1857-1940): "At Parting"
John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951): "The sleep that flits on baby's eyes"
Paul Sargent (1910-87): "Hickory Hill"
Vincent Youmans (1898-1946): "Through the years"
Paul Nordoff (1909-77): "There shall be more joy"
Frank La Forge (1879-1953): "Hills"
Frank Bridge (1879-1941): "Love went a-riding"
Idabelle Firestone (1874-1954): "In my garden"
Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951): "Will you remember? Sweetheart" from Maytime
Idabelle Firestone (1874-1954): "If I could tell you"
Trad./Thomas Moore (1779-1852), arr. Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883): "The last rose of summer" from Martha
Harold Vicars (?-?): "The song of songs (Chanson du coeur brisé)"
John La Montaine (b.1920): "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening"
Harold Arlen (1905-86): "Happiness is a thing called Joe" from Cabin in the Sky
Leonard Bernstein (1918-90): "Some other time" from On the Town
Ernest Charles (1895-1984): "When I have sung my songs"
Celius Dougherty (1902-1986): "Review"
This is a gracious tribute to great ladies of song by another very great lady of song and heart. Grady Harp. June 11
Well, it really takes a St. Louis Woman, as Mme Traubel would remind us, to deliver this material--some mawkishly sentimental--with a straight face, and some British reviewers (who had admired Brewer's scaling down for the Hyperion Schubert Lieder omnibus project) took great and immediate offense over this warmhearted and respectful release. Completely missing its conceptual and musicological foci, they excoriated Brewer for squandering a magnificently large instrument and technique on slight, lesser (and mostly American) songs. This completely ignores hallowed American performance traditions for concertizing divas and divos (the great Jussi Bjoerling shared idiomatically in this repertoire as well), and it shamelessly begs the moot question of the classical singer's artistic right to cross over and sing the Broadway blues--Farrell yes, Dame Kiri no. (I worry that our spoilt British cousins have simply grown unused to a robust colonial voice this huge and commanding, since the really big British voices like Eva Turner's or Rita Hunter's come round so seldom.) Christine had another influential mentor, one Birgit Nilsson, who I believe would just cackle over the inane and ignorant Brewer brouhaha and launch into another giddy encore of "I could have danced all night."
If this was a blindfold performance and the singer's name was withheld, we'd see a sharp drop in gush from her fans who rush in to praise any new release of hers with pennants flying.
With musical values low, the big plus of the album are the marvelous programme notes of John Steane that meet his usual high standards of erudition on the topic of encores and their contexts. This little booklet tucked into this CD is one of the most evidently sincere and caring that's been issued anywhere. It's light years away from the crankouts that so often are yawn material in CD releases and it's unusual to find printed materials that are this superlative. It's just too bad Brewer runs this show and that the intimacy and delicacy of "Some Other Time" wasn't kept as the lodestar for selecting the programme. A much more satisfying recital of this type (that doesn't mention encores) is tLinda Finnie: Songs of the British Isles in tribute to Kathleen Ferrier that floods us with warmth thanks to Finnie's appropriate vocalism. That's the one to go for.
She has a magical voice and I always purchase her new CDs as they are released, many personally autographed by Christine.