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Berlioz: Nuits D'été; Ravel: Shéhérazade / Fink, Nagano


Release Date: 08/14/2007 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 901932   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Hector BerliozMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Bernarda Fink
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


It's somehow fitting that this new coupling of Berlioz and Ravel song cycles should be released at the same time that we learn of the passing of Régine Crespin, whose recording of Shéhérazade and Les nuits d'été under Ansermet has served as a reference recording for four decades. Of course, Bernarda Fink is a mezzo-soprano, while Crespin was a lyric with dramatic inclinations, but the two have a couple of qualities in common. The first is an extraordinary attention to clarity of diction. By this I don't mean the sort of over-articulated, obviously coached pronunciation that we so often hear; rather, both singers make the emotion of the music specific through their
Read more natural way with the text.

I vividly recall, for example, Crespin's performances as the Old Prioress in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites at the MET. The language of the performance was English, the cast entirely American save for Crespin, and yet she was the only singer whose every word was understandable. So it is with Fink, who manages the wordy travelogue in Asie with such point and fluency that you can hear the images being described with particular vividness. Shéhérazade generally is gorgeous, not least in the stylized sensuality of L'indifférent, with its exquisitely sculpted vocal line. A good deal of the credit also belongs to Kent Nagano, whose accompaniments catch every nuance of Ravel's subtly colored scoring.

But it's in the Berlioz that Fink shines most palpably. She understands the classical poise that underpins so much of Berlioz, the wild-eyed Romantic, never more so than here. Villanelle is as fresh and lively as the text, with Fink making delightful music from the rhythm of the words. She perfectly captures the subdued passion of Le spectre de la rose, demonstrating exactly how a touch of restraint at the climaxes creates greater emotion through the power of suggestion. In Absence, her pure timbre makes something utterly lovely out of a refrain that too often turns merely whiney. Once again Nagano accompanies with exemplary tact, at the same time ensuring that tempos never drag, and that every detail of Berlioz's delicate orchestration registers as it should.

The Five Greek Folk Songs make an excellent recital-opener, the two Ravel works bracketing the lengthier Berlioz centerpiece. With equally outstanding engineering providing the finishing touch, this recital should find an honored place in any collection devoted to these composers, or to French song in general. [7/30/2007]

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Les nuits d'été, Op. 7 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Bernarda Fink (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1841; France 
2.
Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Bernarda Fink (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
3.
Mélodies populaires grecques (5) by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Bernarda Fink (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Kent Nagano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1906; France 

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