Anne Sofie von Otter Lieder Mélodies Archiv Produktion

Déjà Review: this review was first published in December 2001 and the recording is still available.

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo soprano)
Lieder and Mélodies
Melvyn Tan (fortepiano)
Christina Högmann (soprano), Kristina Hammerström (mezzo soprano), Eric Hoedrich (clarinet), Nils-Erik Sparf (violin)
rec. 1999, Swedish Radio, Stockholm
Archiv Produktion 469 074-2 [71]

It is perhaps a duty of major artists that they should use their influence to challenge us as listeners, and part of that challenge should surely be to extend our awareness of the vast riches of the repertory. Anne Sofie von Otter, with her talented colleagues, certainly succeeds on these fronts in this attractive song compilation of music by three little known composers in this field: Meyerbeer, Spohr and Beethoven.

It might seem to strange to describe Beethoven as ‘little known’, yet that is precisely what he is as far as music for voice and piano is concerned. Move beyond the celebrated cycle An die ferne Geliebte, and the territory is largely uncharted. So all credit to von Otter for her enterprise. The two Italian settings are very pleasing, and hardly that obscure, but she finds subtleties of tone colour that give the music its maximum potential. The other highlight is the other well known item: Adelaide. This she sings with abundant sensitivity to the text, which she makes more of a priority than the alternative of a beautiful line.

Spohr is an underrated composer in every genre in which he worked, so it is good to have these songs with obbligato violin and piano. The three-artist combination is itself of abundant interest, though the music is charming and decorative rather than penetrating. Much of the violin writing takes the form of a florid descant around the voice: just compare Spohr’s version of Goethe’s Erlkönig with the famous song by Schubert, which is much more powerful.

Meyerbeer is remembered almost entirely for his operas, so to have these song performances is intriguing and rewarding too. The languages are both French and German, and the elegance of the former is particularly enjoyable. The balance between von Otter’s graceful vocal line and Melvyn Tan’s fortepiano accompaniment is ideally captured by the Archiv recording, and the attention to details of dynamics and phrasing seems exemplary. This is a composer who is well worth exploring: try, for example, the big scena Le voeu pendant l’orage and the charmingly lightweight Sicilienne. Both are masterly in their different ways.

This is a most satisfying recital by major artists in repertoire which expands our understanding of the composers. Full texts and translations are included.

Terry Barfoot

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Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Ma barque
La Fille de l’air
Prière d’enfants
Le voeu pendant l’orage
Des Schäfers Lied (for voice, clarinet and piano)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
In questa tomba obscura, WoO 133
T’intendo s’, mio cor, Opus 82 No. 2
Als die Geliebte sich trennen wollte, WoO 132
Seufzer eines Ungelbieten – Gegenliebe WoO 118
Sehnsucht, WoO 146
An die Geliebte, WoO 140
Ariette, Opus 128
Maigesang, Opus 52 No. 4
Adelaide, Opus 46
Louis Spohr (1884-1859)
Lieder (with violin and piano accompaniment):
Der Spielmann und seine Geige