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Art Nouveau - Strauss, Zemlinsky, Ravel, Respighi / Teodora Gheorghiu, Jonathan Aner

Gheorghiu / Aner
Release Date: 05/14/2013 
Label:  Aparte   Catalog #: 54   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alexander von ZemlinskyOttorino RespighiMaurice RavelRichard Strauss
Performer:  Teodora GheorghiuJonathan Aner
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ART NOUVEAU: Songs by Strauss, Zemlinsky, Ravel and Respighi Teodora Gheorghiu (sop); Jonathan Aner (pn) APARTE 054 (59:18)


No, she’s not Angela’s sister, cousin, or secret daughter, although being called Gheorghiu can’t have hurt a young singer’s lonely path of rejections, rigged auditions, and raised hopes. There’s even a nice photo of both singers hugging on Teodora’s website. Teodora Gheorghiu is a rising name in major European opera houses, like Vienna and Geneva, and she crops up in Naïve’s Vivaldi series. Discovered by Read more José Carreras, she gained some attention with her intriguing first album of music written for Anna de Amicis, and with this second album, she seems still keen not to flood the market with yet more Puccini arias. Although darkish in timbre, hers is a very different lyric soprano to Angela’s, with less covering and with a pleasing Slavic edge to the sound. The latter could become strident if she is not careful, but here it is a delight, compared to the watery, neither-here-nor-there sopranos that colleges are churning out. More than once in this enterprising multilingual album, her detailed, lively approach reminded me of the versatile Sicilian soprano Nuccia Focile, and for me compliments don’t come higher.


This program is a pan-European take on Art Nouveau, with four contemporary but seemingly disparate composers. The Strauss items are familiar enough. We start with his early set, Mädchenblumen , where the florid, sensual texts are tastefully handled, with that clean, refreshing tone of hers keeping any sugariness at bay. I have heard more involved accounts of the later Ophelia songs, but it is hard not to admire Gheorghiu’s taste and refusal to overplay these “mini operas.” Although steeped in a similar romanticism, the lovely set of Zemlinsky songs brings out the best in this young singer, her simple, direct approach being ideal for what are essentially sophisticatedly written arrangements of Tuscan folk texts. Although an early work, there are clear hallmarks of what Zemlinsky’s romantically developed Modernism would become.


We step back a bit, tonally, into Ravel’s Five Popular Greek Melodies, sensually done and providing a good introduction to the four single Ravel songs that follow. Her Rêves is poised and sincere, but the florid and dramatic Tripatos takes Gheorghiu’s voice to its limit, with the runs not bang on. Her strengths lie in the more smoothly poised songs like the Ballade de la reine morte d’aimer . The early Respighi cycle Dieta silvane is a light but utterly delightful discovery, with the texts of his artist/contemporary, Antonio Rubino, depicting a very modern take on classical imagery such as fauns and Pan. The final song, Crepuscolo (Twilight), is as fine a lament as any for the Art Nouveau movement in general.


Gheorghiu’s Italian and French are excellent; in fact she is convincing in all three languages, although I would like her German diction to be placed more forward vocally, as that gets cloudy. Perhaps Gheorghiu missed a trick by not visiting Spain on this European journey of early 20th-century song writing, as there is just enough room for some Falla items, for instance. Jonathan Aner’s playing is superb throughout, never cloying in the Ravel, nor overbearing in the Strauss songs. The Respighi, though, is what makes this album extremely valuable. Aparte is spending money on her with a lavish presentation and booklet, which contains not only full texts and translations but also biographies and an interview. Sound is excellent, airy but focused. We vocal collectors end up with hundreds of pleasing but same-y recital programs, so it is nice to see this singer stick out for mainly the right reasons.


FANFARE: Barnaby Rayfield
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Works on This Recording

1.
Waltz Songs (6) on Tuscan folk lyrics, Op. 6 by Alexander von Zemlinsky
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Deità silvane by Ottorino Respighi
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917/1925; Italy 
3.
Tripatos by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; France 
4.
Rêves by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; France 
5.
Mélodies populaires grecques (5) by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1906; France 
6.
Manteau de fleurs by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
7.
Ballade de la reine morte d'aimer by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1893; France 
8.
Mädchenblumen, Op. 22 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Written: 1886-88 
9.
Lieder (6), Op. 67: Nos 1-3 "Ophelia Lieder" by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Teodora Gheorghiu (Soprano), Jonathan Aner (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; Germany 

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