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Lebendige Vergangenheit: Jennie Tourel, Vol. 2

Chopin / Tourel
Release Date: 04/13/2010 
Label:  Preiser Records   Catalog #: 89733   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Maurice RavelModest MussorgskySergei RachmaninovFrédéric Chopin,   ... 
Performer:  Jennie TourelLeonard BernsteinErich Itor KahnGeorge Reeves
Conductor:  Leonard BernsteinEugene Ormandy
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



LEBENDIGE VERGANGENHEIT: JENNIE TOUREL II Jennie Tourel (mez); Leonard Bernstein, pn/cond; 1 Eugene Ormandy, cond; 2 Erich Itor Kahn 3 , George Reeves (pn 4 ); Columbia SO; 5 Philadelphia O 6 PREISER 89733, mono (78:13)


Read more class="COMPOSER12">RAVEL Shéhérazade. 1,5 MUSSORGSKY Songs and Dances of Death. 1 RACHMANINOFF Songs: selections. 3 CHOPIN Polish Songs: selections. 4 PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky: Field of the Dead. 2,6


Jennie Tourel (1900–73) was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, and if her remarks in this respect are to be considered truthful—she did change both her birthplace and birthdate repeatedly in interviews, by a matter of continents and a decade—she showed signs of advanced musical ability at the age of six while playing the flute. By eight, she was taking piano lessons, but by 16, her professors claimed that her vocal talents outweighed the rest. Her family emigrated in 1917, eventually settling in Paris, where she studied with Anna El-Tour (whose name furnished hers, anagrammatically) and that great stylist Reynaldo Hahn. During the 1920s she began building her own reputation as a stylist on the concert stage, and in 1931 she gave her first performance in opera. She would subsequently move to the U.S., becoming regarded over time as a “musician’s musician.” Her compositional range was exceptionally broad for the period, from early Italian monody to Hindemith and Stravinsky (both of whom wrote music for her), with a bright mezzo voice that ended in secure high notes. During an era when mezzos were rare—and singers with brains who were knowledgeable about numerous musical cultures were not terribly common, either—Tourel was much in demand by connoisseurs.


These days, of course, there are many more mezzos around, quite a few of them intelligent and hard-working. What Tourel has to offer us is an intensity of expression based on a thorough exploration of music and text. She also brings to the table an authoritative awareness of an authentic Russian performance tradition that has receded in modern times. As this release from Preiser includes recordings of her Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev, as well as Ravel and Chopin, we have a good survey of Tourel’s art, at least from a song recital perspective.


The 1950 Songs and Dances of Death lacks the histrionics of Christoff’s celebrated version, but are just as intensely dramatic, and more finely conceived. To note a few highpoints, there’s the drained voice Tourel uses to set the scene of the sick child in “The Lullaby”; the way the vowels are lengthened on “Placha, toskuya, lyublya” as Death points out to the mother how she has worn herself out through weeping, longing, and love; and the final, eerily floated “Bayushki, bayu, bayu,” cut abruptly, quietly short. Or consider “The Field-Marshal” (described blandly as “The Army Chief” on this album), with Tourel selecting several of the many darker colors of her voice to describe the murder-soaked field, Death’s approach on his battle horse, and its proud claim of victory. All the stops are pulled out, the voice strong and fearless in its leaps and attacks, with a particularly impressive top. The first couple of words of the final line, “Plyaskoy tyazholoyu,” are hissed with an incantatory venom by this malicious Death, the rest of it treated to a full-throated, gleaming tone that Tourel reserved for those moments when she wanted to punctuate an effect so hard it bled. Leonard Bernstein throughout is the most sensitive of piano accompanists.


The choice of Rachmaninoff songs for a series of Columbia records in 1944 might seem odd at first. Sumptuous warmth is a must for this composer, and it was not a quality that Tourel had, or at any rate, not in her phonographic days. But over the years many sopranos who possessed this have come up short in other respects in this music, while Tourel’s performances by and large impress. “Floods of Spring” is given the full-throated treatment, in accord with its joyous, onrushing spirit. “Lilacs” is not ideally soft or beautiful, yet “The Drooping Corn” has just that kind of magical softening when required, as well as a flowing beauty of tone that is especially impressive, and a fine diminuendo at its conclusion. “All Things Depart” begins the kind of recitative-like declamation that Tourel handles so well, moving from force to gentleness, while “O, Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair” is expansive and varied, extravagant in character, yet always paying close attention to the demands of both text and music.


A year later, Tourel recorded the “Field of the Dead” section from Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky —in English. There’s no trace of accent from the woman who left Belarus at the age of 17, though she gives full value to the rich vowels, thus simulating some of the rolling cadence of the original Russian text. Again, there’s little plush to the voice, but plenty of power, inner detail, and an intensity that perfectly fits the scena of a girl seeking her lover among the battlefield corpses.


Tourel is appropriately more subdued in her 1950 Shéhérazade . The voice is a bit unyielding at times, but she focuses on tone and color to good advantage. In “Et des habits à longues franges” from “Asie” there’s the delicate fall on longues , and the soft draw on franges , with a perfectly floated opening to “L’Indifférent.”


From 1944 once more, we have three of Chopin’s Polish songs. “The Maiden’s Wish” isn’t very successful, lacking emotional exuberance and freedom, but “My Joys” gains strength after an unsteady beginning, while “Melancholie” is delicately sung apart from a couple of uneasy notes in the lower part of the voice.


Preiser as usual provides a short bio, but no texts. Selections are de-clicked, and lightly filtered at the top. I would personally have preferred some of the original hiss in exchange for the greater airiness and point of the original, but tastes will differ on this point. One in which we’re likely to agree is that Tourel was an artist of exceptional focus and taste. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Date of Recording: 1950 
Length: 15 Minutes 43 Secs. 
2.
Songs and dances of death by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Leonard Bernstein (Piano), Jennie Tourel (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1877; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1950 
Length: 22 Minutes 2 Secs. 
3.
Songs (6), Op. 8: no 4, I have grown fond of sorrow by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Erich Itor Kahn (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 22 Secs. 
4.
Songs (15), Op. 26: no 15, All things pass by by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 4 Secs. 
5.
Songs (15), Op. 26: no 10, Before my window by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 1 Minutes 52 Secs. 
6.
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 12, How painful for me by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 1 Minutes 58 Secs. 
7.
Songs (6), Op. 4: no 5, Oh thou, my field by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 3 Minutes 48 Secs. 
8.
Songs (6), Op. 4: no 4, Sing not to me, beautiful maiden by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Erich Itor Kahn (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 4 Minutes 19 Secs. 
9.
Songs (6), Op. 4: no 3, In the silence of the night by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Erich Itor Kahn (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 36 Secs. 
10.
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 4, They answered by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 1 Minutes 36 Secs. 
11.
Songs (12), Op. 14: no 4, I was with her by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Erich Itor Kahn (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 7 Secs. 
12.
Songs (12), Op. 21: no 5, Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), Erich Itor Kahn (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
13.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74: no 1, The wish, B 33 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  George Reeves (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 
14.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74: no 12, My darling, B 112 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  George Reeves (Piano), Jennie Tourel ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 2 Minutes 13 Secs. 
15.
Polish Songs (17), Op. 74: no 13, I want what I have not by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Jennie Tourel (), George Reeves (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1847 
Date of Recording: 1944 
Length: 3 Minutes 50 Secs. 
16.
Alexander Nevsky, Op. 78: Field of the Dead by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Jennie Tourel ()
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938/1939; USSR 
Date of Recording: 1945 
Length: 6 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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