Forget this Night Dain Armstrong 7 Mountains 7MNTN046

Forget This Night
Katharine Dain (soprano)
Sam Armstrong (piano)
rec. 2023, Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Kleine Zaal.
7 Mountain Records 7MNTN-046 [69]

Katharine Dain and Sam Armstrong made a strong impression with their award-winning Regards sur l’infini album (review), so I, for one, needed little persuasion when offered Forget This Night for review. Quality of voice and musicianship are of course essentials for such a recording, but imaginative programming is another major attraction here and there is plenty of off the beaten track gorgeousness to get your teeth into here.

Clearly selected with a great deal of care, this is a recital which draws you in and keeps you engaged from beginning to end. Lili Boulanger’s Attente is her first extant song and forms a perfect opener with its beautifully limpid accompaniment and clear dramatic arc. There is a mixture of playfulness and drama, light and darkness throughout the whole programme which Katharine Dain expresses with an ideal balance of colour, expressive line and articulation. The programme ends movingly with a première, J’ai des fréponds, a quiet unaccompanied fragment from Boulanger from her final months.

The general theme of Forget This Night is that of ‘impermanence and desire’, and the central item here is Clairières dans le ciel, which was Lili Boulanger’s only song cycle. Despite there being a few recordings listed elsewhere, this is clearly a work that deserves a much higher profile. Compared with Schumann’s Dichterliebe in the booklet in terms of its emotional content, this is a cycle that opens with “the hushed wonder of early infatuation”. It passes through the joys and pain of romantic attachments, delusions and suffering, to end up with the remarkable Demain fera un an. This is a fully developed operatic scene in its own right, portraying “full-blown psychological disintegration” over an eight-minutes span that recycles and transforms musical material from earlier in the cycle and concludes with an echo of its opening.

Karol Szymanowski and Grażyna Bacewicz’s songs are all wonderful, with Bacewicz’s darkly sultry Mów do mnie, o miły (Speak to me, my lovely) just one of an entire sequence of highlights. There is no need to fear linguistic obscurity with this album, as all sung texts are printed with English translations in the booklet. Sensitively and warmly accompanied by Sam Armstrong, Katharine Dain’s world-class vocal tone and exquisite high register would be worth hearing just singing your weekly shopping list. With such a programme, this is a must-have disc for all collectors of good song recitals.

Dominy Clements

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Lili Boulanger (1893-1918)
Attente (1911)
Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Pieśni kurpiowskie, Op 58/2: Wysła burzycka (1930-32)
Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)
Smuga cienia (1949)
Trzy pieśni do słów arabskich z x wieku, No 1: Mamidło (1938)
Karol Szymanowski
Des Hafis Liebeslieder, Op 24/3: Die brennenden Tulpen (1911)
Trois morceaux pour piano, No 1: D’un vieux Jardin (1914)
Grażyna Bacewicz
Rozstanie (1949)
Karol Szymanowski
Vier Gesänge, Op 41/4: Das letzte Lied (1918)
Grażyna Bacewicz
Mów do mnie, o miły (1936)
Karol Szymanowski
Das Grab des Hafis, Op. posth.
Trois morceaux pour piano, No 2: D’un jardin clair (1914)
Lili Boulanger
Clairières dans le ciel (1913-14)
I. Elle était descendue au bas de la prairie
II. Elle est gravement gaie
III. Parfois, je suis triste
IV. Un poète disait
V. Au pied de mon lit
VI. Si tout ceci n’est qu’un pauvre rêve
VII. Nous nous aimerons tant
VIII. Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme
IX. Les lilas qui avaient fleuri
X. Deux ancolies
XI. Par ce que j’ai souffert
XII. Je garde une medaille d’elle
XIII. Demain fera un an
Karol Szymanowski
Trzy kołysanki, Op 48/1: Pochyl się cicho nad kołyską (1922)
Lili Boulanger
Sketchbook fragment, BN Ms 19469: J’ai des fréponds