The first Caballé recording that I bought, back in the 1960s, was a collection of Granados songs (with orchestra). I was totally enchanted – by the songs as well as the singing. Since then I have often come back to these songs and heard them in many versions. However good the readings have been I have always returned to Caballé. The first love is always difficult to separate from. On this very mixed recital Tina Kiberg opens with four of these
Tonadillas and memories of Caballé are again evoked. Naturally Kiberg has quite a different voice type, having since her debut at Det Konglige Teater (The Royal Theatre) in Copenhagen in 1983, steadily developed towards theRead more dramatic
Fach. Today Brünnhilde, Isolde and Elektra are her bread and butter. Such a diet can easily damage the voice, but there are few signs of wear and tear: a slightly widened vibrato is present but pretty unobtrusive. The other side of the coin is far more important. Kiberg boasts brilliant and beautiful fortes, a fine sense for softer nuance and good legato. We hear an experienced singer who can communicate.
After the delightful Granados songs we are served a substantial helping of Danish songs. Carl Nielsen is represented. He is internationally known as one of the great 20
th century symphonists but in his native land he is remembered just as much for his many songs, many of which were memorably recorded by Aksel Schiøtz in the 1930s and 1940s. They gave the Danish people a national identity during the Nazi occupation. We more or less take Nielsen for granted in this genre – at least in Scandinavia – but there are other gems. One of the finest is no doubt Lange-Müller’s
Aakande (By the Side of the Brook), where the singer meditates on why the flowers along the brook close at night. Do they sink down to the land of dreams?
Skin ud, Du klare Solskin! (Shine, you bright Sunshine!) is another melodic gem. Lange-Müller is very much the great song composer the Danish have kept to themselves, whereas Nielsen at least occasionally can be heard abroad.
Leo Estvad was a multi-artist, best known as author and painter but
Det er igen den fine lyse nat (It’s again the nice, light night) is a truly beautiful and simple picture of Nordic nature. Coincidentally I typed this review just before midnight on 21 June, the night that is the lightest of the year and even in central Sweden it is possible to read the headlines of the local paper at midnight. Above the Arctic Circle the sun never sets during those summer weeks. Estvad paints this in beautiful colours and more of the same is to follow: simple, beautiful, melodious songs that can’t fail to make an impact on everyone – well, bar those with hearts of stone. Carl Mortensen’s
Sov, mit Barn, sov laenge (Sleep, my Child, sleep long) goes directly to my shortlist of beautiful songs for late night listening! Open your heart, dear reader, and fill it with this song’s warmth and unaffected sentiment.
While most of these songs may be a well hidden Danish secret, the folk song
I Skovens dybe, stille Ro (In the deep, still Calm of the Woods) is well known in the rest of Scandinavia. Tina Kiberg sings it exquisitely.
Moving across Öresund we can also savour Hugo Alfvén’s
Så tag mit hjerte (So take my heart), still with one leg in Denmark since the poem is Danish. This late composition by the doyen of Swedish national romantic composers was also a favourite with Jussi Björling. We don’t need to make comparisons. Tina Kiberg has her own integrity and sings it with great feeling.
There is an old tradition of
Allsång (community singing) in Sweden and one of the most popular TV programmes for many summers has been
Allsång på Skansen. Skansen is an outdoor museum where there is also a big open-air stage. Jussi Björling appeared there many times before audiences of 20,000 listeners. Every week people gather there to listen and take part in the singing and on such occasions Bengt Ahlfors’
Har du visor min vän is very popular. The message of the song is: You have to sing your songs while you can. Tomorrow it may be too late ... Tina Kiberg sings it
a cappella and this is the most moving rendition of the song I’ve heard. It goes direct to your heart.
Ture Rangström was one of the most prolific Swedish song composers of the 20
th century, and beside Strindberg, his favourite poet was Bo Bergman. The two songs here were both composed in 1924 and rank among the best.
The folk song
Uti vår hage (Out in our grove), where the unknown poet lists several flowers and berries, is said to be a secret recipe for a concoction that, ages ago was thought to be abortive for young girls who had become pregnant. It is best known in Hugo Alfvén’s arrangements for nixed choir or male choir, but in the olden days it was no doubt sung by a solo voice. Tina Kiberg sings it simply and beautifully with excellent Swedish diction.
Internationally Gösta Nystroem, who like Hugo Alfvén and Leo Estvad was also a painter, is best known for his
Sinfonia del Mare from the mid-1940s. There he employed poems by Ebba Lindqvist and a few years later, in 1952, he returned to her poetry for the song-cycle
Själ och Landskap (Soul and Landscape), which also has references to the sea. These are deeply intense songs with a rather bold harmonic language. The postlude to the cycle is a graphic illustration of the sea.
For the finale of this delectable recital we leave the Nordic landscape for the Central European art song tradition – though it should be said that Nystroem’s music is more French-oriented than characteristically Nordic. With all respect for Tina Kiberg’s well conceived and insightful readings of Schubert, it is the Strauss songs that make the deepest impression. Where in Schubert one all the time feels that this is an older woman trying to sound youthful, her Elektra-voice is better attuned to Strauss.
Allerseelen, one of my absolute favourites in the Strauss oeuvre, is sung with inward glow. In
Morgen she scales down her dramatic voice even further and her excellent accompanist really makes the silences speak. An exuberant
Zueignung is a worthy encore to this admirable recital, superbly recorded.
The song texts can be found on Danacord’s homepage but the address didn’t work for me, so I had to go Danacord’s catalogue. There I could access the catalogue in numeric order and then scroll down to 685, where the Danish/Swedish texts and the English summaries are on separate documents. The liner-notes are in Danish only which may reduce the international appeal. This is a pity, since the songs and the music-making are on a truly high level.
-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International Read less