JAN DeGAETANI AND GILBERT KALISH IN CONCERT • Jan DeGaetani (mez); Gilbert Kalish (pn) • BRIDGE 9340 A/B (2 CDs: 117:18 Text and Translation) Live: 1983–87
BEETHOVEN 3 Songs on Goethe. Abendlied underm gestirnten Himmel. POULENC Les Gars qui vent à la Fête. A sa Guitarre. C’est ainsi que tu es. Main dominée par le cour. Amoureuses.Read more class="COMPOSER12"> FRAZELLE Worldly Hopes. CRUMB 3 Early Songs. The Sleeper. DEBUSSY Fêtes galantes: Series 2. STRAUSS Zueignung. Ich trage meine Minne. Ruhe, meine Seele. All mein Gedanken. Morgen. GERSHWIN Our Love Is Here to Stay. WALDEN 3 Ladies. HAYDN Arianna a Naxos
When leukemia took Jan DeGaetani from us in 1989, at the age of 56, we lost one of the most important singers of her time. Although her voice was not particularly large (thus keeping her away from the opera stage for most of her career), it was beautiful and intelligently used. The range of repertoire in which she was comfortable is extraordinary—from pre-Baroque to music written expressly for her. Her recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire remains a true classic, and her discography is a significant one. But much of what is heard here is either new to her discography, or is repertoire not currently available in other performances by her.
In Gilbert Kalish’s affectionate and informative note, he speaks about his partnership with DeGaetani, and about the qualities that distinguished her singing. He also speaks of discovering an old cassette recording of the concert that they gave in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on February 25, 1987 (in the midst of her suffering from leukemia), and feeling that it had to be released to the public. Most of the material on these two discs comes from that recital. The Haydn cantata is from a 1983 performance in Los Angeles, and the Walden songs, which were composed for DeGaetani and Kalish, probably stem from a 1983 or 1984 performance (I am grateful to Bridge for providing this information, not all of which is given in the material that comes with the discs).
None of this material was professionally recorded with the intention of commercial release. Adam Abeshouse did extensive restoration work on it all, and the result is certainly more than adequate. He could not fix balance problems (in much of the material the piano is too heavy, and overall there is too much distance between the voice and the listener). But the reservations vanish the longer one listens. DeGaetani’s remarkably pure intonation, her ability to get inside whatever music she sang, and the unique partnership she formed with Kalish, result in a vocal/piano recital of rare quality. Just look at the headnote and absorb the range of what is sung here—how many artists could actually bring off a program of such diversity with a completely natural sense of identification with every style and genre represented here?
Sometimes when we speak of a singer’s intelligence it is a code for what Anna Russell called “plenty of aaahhrtistry, but no voice.” Not so with DeGaetani. She could have made a successful career on the voice alone, but that was never enough for her. What we get here is the full package: voice, musicianship, theatricality, complete competence in Italian, German, French, and English, and a keen mind married to natural musical instincts. It is great news for all of us that Bridge has rescued these performances, and made them available.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
America lost two great singers far too early – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Jan DeGaetani. I’ve seldom heard anything as moving as Hunt Lieberson’s recording of
As Rosy Steps the Morn from Handel’s
Theodora, a sublime example of her art at its most simple, communicative and heart-wrenching. But Jan DeGaetani was no less an artist, no less important in the pantheon of song on disc. Indeed her contribution to the work of contemporary music was significant and the partnerships she forged with Copland, Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle, Carter, Jacob Druckman, George Crumb, and many others shows her questing musicianship at something like its most acute. Not that she ignored the rest of the repertory or that she was – dread phrase – ‘a specialist’. In this two disc set from Bridge, a company that has done so much to further her art on disc – we have Strauss, Beethoven, and Haydn amongst others in a well balanced examination of her distinctive gifts throughout the repertory.
The recordings are not studio-made; they were made during recitals and no little restoration works seems to have been undertaken to make them acceptable for commercial release. Some problems remain, notably a certain lack of immediacy and balancing issues, but I wouldn’t stress these too much, and the sound generally speaking remains perfectly acceptable, unless you’re expecting pristine studio conditions.
DeGaetani died of leukaemia at the age of 56 in 1989. The concert took place in 1987, though there’s no audible sign of any vocal impediment. It takes in an excellent Haydn
Arianna a Naxos and some fine examples of her Beethoven – the three Goethe settings Op.83 which are sung with artistry, tonal allure, and without mannerism of any kind. Though she wasn’t an especially explosive or expansive singer she summons up requisite ardour for
Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel. She sings five Poulenc songs, bringing out the cabaret wit of
Les gars qui vont à la Fête and singing one of his most beautiful creations,
A sa Guitarre with the right kind of antique longing, Debussy’s
Fêtes galantes (series II) completes the French focus. Her Strauss selection may not be the most striking or effulgently sung – indeed she can be quite reserved in this repertoire – but it is precisely calibrated and effective.
There’s a single, excellent Gershwin song,
Our Love is here to Stay. And then there are songs by three other Americans she did so much to bring to the attention of the public. Kenneth Frazelle’s 1985
Wordly Hopes – settings of poems by A.R. Ammons – is a sensitive and successful set of five songs, robust and notably expansive in the last, long setting of
Rainy Morning. George Crumb’s early songs are distinctive and excellent, notably the wind painting of the stormy third song with its treble flurries and sense of onrush. Stanley Walden’s
Three Ladies (1983) to Jacques Levy’s texts, is powerful, sometimes terse and conversational, and a highly accomplished example of his word setting. It was written for DeGaetani and her long-term colleague, and pianist, Gilbert Kalish.
Kalish contributes a warm and personal note in the booklet, and there are other personal recollections too that build up a portrait of DeGaetani and her many accomplishments, which this latest release does so well to illustrate.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Songs (3), Op. 83by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Jan DeGaetani (Mezzo Soprano),
Gilbert Kalish (Piano)
Period: Classical Written: 1810; Vienna, Austria Notes: The songs of Op. 83 are also known as "Drei Gesänge von Goethe".