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Regine Crespin In Recital

Crespin,Regine / Wustman,John
Release Date: 08/02/2011 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4802098   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert SchumannHugo WolfClaude DebussyFrancis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine CrespinJohn Wustman
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



RÉGINE CRESPIN IN RECITAL Régine Crespin (sop); John Wustman (pn) DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2098 (49:02)


SCHUMANN 5 Songs on texts of Mary Queen of Scots. WOLF In der Frühe. Der Gärtner. Das verlassene Mägdlein. Ich hab’ in Penna. Anakreons Grab. Verschwiegene Liebe. DEBUSSY 3 Chansons de Bilitis. POULENC Read more Chanson d’Orkenise. Hôtel. Le Carafon. La Reine de coeur. Les Gars qui vont à la fête. ‘C’. Fêtes galantes


This was recorded in 1967 at the peak of Régine Crespin’s considerable powers, and became a much-loved LP among vocal collectors. For some reason, it has not seen a reissue on compact disc until now. The good news is that it is as wonderful as I remembered—perhaps even better. The bad news is that Decca has soiled itself with this reissue. The biggest problem is the decision to provide no texts. Serious vocal collectors will probably have most or all of these, though they will have to go rummaging through their collections to find them. Or one can go to recmusic.org/lieder, a wonderful site that provides texts for art songs (except for those not in the public domain, which unfortunately includes four of the Poulenc songs here). But it seems to me that intelligent marketing would indicate a broader audience for this disc if people had conveniently at hand the texts for an art form that absolutely requires understanding of the words. If money is really the issue, perhaps someone at corporate headquarters could have figured out a way to make texts available, perhaps online, at a cost, so the buyer at least would have an option. Secondly, though less crucially, Decca has screwed up the printed timings on the tray card and booklet. They inadvertently repeated the 2:07 timing for Schumann’s Gebet , giving it again for the first Wolf song ( In der Frühe ). The listed timings for the remainder of the Wolf songs are each off by one track (so the actual timing for track 6 is listed as the timing for track 7, etc.), until we get to the final Wolf song ( Verschwiegene Liebe ) which is left like a hanging chad when one moves all the other ones up a track; its timing is 2:55. And finally, 49:02 is a short duration for a CD. Yes, we understand that this was Crespin’s only song recording for Decca, and it was made for LP, but Decca surely has operatic tracks in its archives that it could have added to give full value. (If their claim were to be “Oh, we wanted to keep this a pure song recording,” one’s response would be, “Add the operatic repertoire, and let the customer make that choice by programming the CD player accordingly.”)


One hates to recommend a recording that the issuing company has so badly screwed up, but in fact this is one of the finest song recordings of the second half of the 20th century. I keep listening over and over, and discovering new wonders each time. Crespin was one of the greats, no question about it. She had a naturally glowing, beautiful voice, and the ability to scale it to virtually any dimension the music required. She sang both Sieglinde and Brünnhilde in Die Walküre , Kundry in Parsifal , the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier , and major Verdi roles. At the same time, she made what many consider to be the classic recording of Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été and Ravel’s Schéhérazade with Ansermet, and made an important career as a singer of Lieder and chansons . Rare is the artist who is vocally, dramatically, and stylistically at home equally in such a scope of repertoire, but Crespin was. John Steane, in his book The Grand Tradition , says flatly about Crespin, “This is one of the great singers on record, and as with perhaps four or five others discussed in this book, her singing is an acquired taste that becomes addictive. She cannot be heard casually.”


Steane makes a great point here. Crespin is a singer who commands full attention, not only because of the beauty of her voice, but the subtlety of her interpretive skills. She colors the voice with infinite variety, and she also uses a slight bending of the pitch to make dramatic points with more skill than almost anyone in my experience.


Examples abound. The darkening of the voice for the gloomy Mary Stuart songs of Schumann—but then the poignancy found in Abschied von der Welt (Farewell to the World) after Elizabeth condemns Mary to death, and her stunningly beautiful floated piano on the final word of that song, “ Frieden ” (peace). In Wolf’s Ich hab in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen (I Have a Lover Living in Penna), a kind of female and first-person version of Leporello’s Catalog Aria, Crespin conveys the naughtiness and insouciance perfectly. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement is her rendition of Wolf’s In der Frühe (In the Early Hours). The first part of the song is deeply troubled (“My troubled senses rummage still here and there among my doubts, creating nightly visions”), but as morning comes, the mood brightens (“Be happy! Already, here and there, morning bells are awakening”). Crespin lightens the color on the words “sind da und dörten Morgenglocken wach geworden” (here and there, morning bells are awakening). The hollowed tones of Wolf’s Anakreons Grab are further evidence of Crespin’s ability as a colorist of great natural musical instincts and intelligence.


One interesting aspect of Crespin’s career is that she defied nationalistic stereotyping. Although she was French, one doesn’t first think of her as a French singer, but rather a singer of international caliber who cannot be easily pigeonholed. Nonetheless, in the French repertoire she was unique—partly because she did not fit the light- (or even thin-) voiced image we normally associate with that country’s singing. She could lighten the voice perfectly (Poulenc’s Fêtes galantes , for example), but she also brought an unusual tonal opulence to this music. Add to everything else her remarkable diction and you have the complete vocal artist.


Enough said. This is a truly great recital, aided significantly by the sensitive and knowing pianism of John Wustman. Decca’s balance favors the singer slightly more than is ideal, but not seriously so, and the overall sound is very good, hardly showing its age. Despite my reservations about Decca’s shoddy production, this disc is essential to any serious vocal collection.


FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1.
Gedichte (5) der Königin Maria Stuart, Op. 135 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1852; Germany 
2.
Mörike Lieder: no 7, Das verlassene Mägdlein by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Mörike Lieder: no 24, In der Frühe by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Mörike Lieder: no 17, Der Gärtner by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Italienisches Liederbuch II: no 46, Ich hab' in Penna by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Austria 
6.
Goethe Lieder: no 29, Anakreons Grab by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Eichendorff Lieder: no 3, Verschwiegene Liebe by Hugo Wolf
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Chansons de Bilitis for Speaker and Chamber Ensemble by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1900; France 
9.
Poèmes (2) d'Aragon: no 2, Fêtes galantes by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; France 
10.
Poèmes (2) d'Aragon: no 1, C by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; France 
11.
La courte paille: no 6, Le carafon by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; France 
12.
La courte paille: no 3, La reine de coeur by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; France 
13.
Chansons villageoises (6): no 2, Les gars qui vont à la fête by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; France 
14.
Banalités: no 2, Hôtel by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; France 
15.
Banalités: no 1, Chanson d'Orkenise by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Régine Crespin (Soprano), John Wustman (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; France 

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