Both ladies sing excellently with texts invariably clearly enunciated and dramatically enlivened.
This music has not previously been available on CD, so this custom reissue by ArkivMusic under licence from Sony is especially welcome despite being short measure even by the standards of a mid-1970s LP. We hear an unusual and eclectic selection of rarely heard music; even the most frequently heard piece, Cherubino’s “Non so più” from “The Marriage of Figaro” is in the rarely heard arrangement by Mozart for piano and violin accompaniment and affords a chance to hear one of von Stade’s most celebrated roles in slightly different guise.
A programme of individual items is sandwiched between duets byRead more Schumann and Brahms, in which we hear the beautiful blend of Blegen’s silvery lyric soprano and von Stade’s more sultry mezzo. Both ladies sing excellently in three languages with texts invariably clearly enunciated and dramatically enlivened.
Over the ensuing years, both singers came to sing frequently together. Miss Blegen’s voice is pure and true if occasionally a little shrill – but the same can be said of von Stade’s contribution to the concluding Brahms song “Walpurgisnacht”; it is the only mildly objectionable feature of her otherwise admirable vocal apparatus.
For me, the most appealing item of all is also happily the longest: Chausson’s “Chanson perpétuelle”, the dark and moody plaint of an abandoned lover, full of “decadent” cadences and smouldering eroticism – ideally suited to von Stade’s velvety mezzo. As ever, she sings in excellent French.
The Scarlatti aria is a very entertaining item; it is recognisably Handelian in manner, with the martial trumpet - expertly played by Gerard Schwarz - duetting and intertwining with Blegen’s agile soprano.
Another rarity is the aria “Le Bonheur est chose légère” from Saint-Saëns’ forgotten early opera “Le Timbre d’argent”. It is a pretty pastiche in the galant style from an earlier era, charmingly sung by Miss Blegen in a tone lighter than she adopts for the more plaintive aria from Schubert’s equally forgotten “Die Verschworenen”.
After the delicacy of the Saint-Saëns aria, the six Brahms songs inject a much more sombre mood, the singers’ voices more often than not shadowing each other in harmonic thirds, producing a conventional but
echt Brahmsian weightiness, a mood frequently underscored by the insistent left-hand of the piano such as the repeated low C in the second “Weg der Liebe”, the longest and most epic of the songs here.
An amusing little footnote is that the name of violinist “Jose del Maria” is clearly an anagram of Jaime Laredo, here presumably playing semi-incognito for contractual reasons, perhaps?
No texts are provided, but there are good liner-notes from the original LP.
-- Ralph Moore, MusicWeb International [4/2011] Read less