Barbara Bonney, of the silvery voice heard in such roles as Sophie in 'Der Rosenkavalier,' turns out to be a marvelous recitalist as well. This disc of a live recital presented in the Théâtre Musical de Paris-Châtelet is part of a wonderful series: 'Voices of Our Time.' So far there have been DVDs of recitals by Sylvia McNair, Dawn Upshaw, Grace Bumbry, Thomas Hampson, Anne Sofie von Otter, Felicity Lott and Ian Bostridge, all recorded at the Châtelet. More to come, I hope. This recital is unusual in a couple of respects. The first half of the concert is devoted to Schumann's 'Dichterliebe' and the second half to rarely-heard Scandinavian songs. What's so unusual about 'Dichterliebe,' you ask? Well, it's almost never done by a woman singer. Yes, Lotte Lehmann sang it, and Brigitte Fassbänder recorded it, but it's extremely rare nonetheless because Heinrich Heine's poetry is definitely written from a male perspective and as far as I know the cycle is published only in male voice versions. Still, there are some glorious songs in the set, and frankly who cares if it's a woman singing them? I don't. The first, 'Im wunderschönen Monat Mai' ('In the beautiful month of May') is certainly one of Schumann's most glorious melodies, and Bonney's sweet lyric soprano and her exquisite control make it almost unbearably beautiful. Yet, Bonney is able to sing the more dramatic 'Ich grolle nicht' ('I do not resent') with suitable intensity. This is a more-than-acceptable 'Dichterliebe' even if one can't quite get Fischer-Dieskau's or Fritz Wunderlich's voice out of their mind's ear. Malcolm Martineau handles Schumann's sometimes virtuosic piano accompaniments with panache and sensitivity; he and Bonney make a grand team. For me it's the second half that is the more attractive because of its rarity, and its closeness to my heart. I have always been attracted to the song literature of Scandinavia, and am particularly fond of the songs of the too-poorly-known Swedish composer, Wilhelm Stenhammar, of which there are five here, interspersed among songs by Sibelius, Grieg, Hugo Alfvén and Carl Sjöberg. Bonney, who for a time was married to Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard and who lived in Sweden for a number of years, has clear Swedish and Norwegian diction. I've never been terribly fond of Sibelius's 'Diamanten pa Marssnön' ('Diamonds in the March Snow') but it is gorgeously sung here. It is followed by one of my favorite songs, Stenhammar's 'Till en ros' ('To a Rose') and I will admit that Bonney's singing was so beautiful and emotionally true that by the time it was finished I was in tears. Much the same was true for the even more dramatically moving ballad, 'Flickan kom ifran sin älsklings möte' ('A Girl Came from Meeting Her Lover') with its dark and tragic dénouement. Songs I've rarely heard before and which I found quite beautiful were Alfvén's 'Sa tag mit hjerte' ('So Take My Heart') and Grieg's 'Med en vandlilje' ('With a Waterlily'). My heart gladdened with old friends like Grieg's 'Jeg elsker Dig' ('I Love You,' but perhaps better known in its German version, 'Ich liebe Dich') and the 'perfect song' (Bonney's appropriate description), Stenhammar's 'I skogen' ('In the Woods'). I'd never heard Sjögren's 'Tonerna' ('Music') except on an old Swedish recording by Jussi Björling and I must say it really ought to be in the core song repertoire; it is certainly as moving as Schubert's 'An die Musik' ('On Music'). For encores Bonney and Martineau give us Schumann's 'Der Nussbaum' ('The Nut Tree') and Alfvén's 'Skogen sover' ('The Woods Sleep'). And perhaps as a gift for the Parisian audience, one song in French, Liszt's 'Oh! Quand je dors' ('Oh, when I sleep') sung rapturously. There are interspersed interview snippets with Bonney and Martineau, and there are subtitles available in English, French, Spanish and Italian. Sound is available in stereo, Dolby stereo and DTS 5.0. A wonderful disc that I heartily recommend to lovers of great songs sung beautifully. Scott Morrison
Have you ever heard Schumann's song "Der Nussbaum" (The coconut tree) ? That piece of music, 2:56 minutes length, is an exception : a clear, brilliant, simple melody; And at the same time - noble in its quality. It is a must for every music lover. American soprano Barbara Bonney brings Schumann's vocal legacy to a remarkable hight. Her voice reminds me that of Kiri Te-Kanawa - both share the same touch of silk. Unfortunatelly, pianist Malcolm Martineau stays a bit behind. Barbara Bonney took a great challenge in performing Schumann's song cycle 'Dichterliebe' ("The Love of a poet"), originally written for a male voice.It required the art of controlling her lower tones, and what an artist she is ! Bonney captivates her listeners from the very first song "In that wonderfull month of May" - yet another phase of Schumann's at his best.Watching her performing is a unique experiense. The DVD includes songs by several scandinavian composers as well.Best known are Grieg's "Med en vandlilje", "Jeg elsker Dig", and Wilhelm Stenhammar's "Till en ros", for their lovely melodies. I didn't like all that talking in between the recorded music intervals. Couldn't TDK include another Schumann song cycle - "Frau Liebe und Lieben" - instead ?