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Rubinstein: Persian Love Songs / Helene Lindqvist, Philipp Vogler

Release Date: 08/23/2012 
Label:  The Art Song Project   Catalog #: 5637904918   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Hélène LindqvistPhilipp Vogler
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RUBINSTEIN Persisches Liederbuch. 6 Lieder of Heine. 6 Lieder, op. 57. 6 Lieder, op. 72 Hélène Lindqvist (sop); Philipp Vogler (pn) THE ART SONG PROJECT 20121 (70:08) Available at Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes

Well, as I live and breathe! In the last issue I did an interview with pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, and now here’s a duo of soprano and pianist who also put several of Read more their performances online for free streaming. Moreover, they daunt one’s critical sensibilities by issuing a complete CD of songs by a late-Romantic Russian composer whose work is usually quite pedestrian.

Unfortunately, despite lively, charming, well-sung, and committed performances by Hélène Lindqvist (who is, unusually enough, Egyptian-Swedish), my opinion of Rubinstein as a composer hasn’t changed a whole lot. He repeats his themes too often without developing them, and his idea of “Persian” music is sort of a mixture of echt-German Romanticism with a few Hassidic melismas. Yes, a few of his songs in the Heine Lieder and the other sets are charming in the same sort of vein as other third-rate composers of the late 19th century, but by and large this is for-the-moment, forget-it-when-you-leave-the-hall effluvium, designed for momentary delights but not built to last. Of the 30 songs in the album, the only one that really grabs my attention, and that I want to hear again, is “Die Waldhexe” (The Witch in the Woods), set to a poem by Boddien, although “Morgens” is also above average for this composer.

This is a shame, because despite the banality of the material Lindqvist has an extremely interesting voice—dark of timbre, yet with a cutting edge to it that reminds me, in a way, of no one so much as Aureliano Pertile—and she sings with a generally good idea of words. Her phrasing, vocal shading, and placement of the voice are also superb. There is no change of timbre throughout her range; the lower range is just as bright, and dark, as the upper, and her register changes are entirely seamless. I must, however, give only light praise to Philipp Vogler, her accompanist. His playing is clean, but I do not sense any forward momentum in his phrasing, nor any particular interest in the material that streams from under his fingertips. He’s just—good. His playing runs on autopilot.

Also, alas, there are problems at the Art Song Project’s website. The CD cover promises lyrics and translations there, but as of June 6, 2012, I could not find any. Perhaps this is due to my inability to read German, however. Only a few things on the website are in English. The promo sheet accompanying the disc also promised “an essay by the musicologist Nadejda Labedeva on Anton Rubinstein and his Persian Songs written especially for us.” Well, this I did find, by entering Labedeva’s name in the search engine, but it, too, is only in German.

I wish I could hear this singer’s album of Berg songs (Col Legno 20219) instead of this fare. As I say, she’s a very interesting singer and interpreter, despite the vocal edginess up top, which probably dissipates in a theater, but she can’t persuade me that this material is worth more than one listen. If, however, you like Rubinstein’s music more than I do (or most of the world does), this is a splendid album. The sonics are a bit roomy, but not over-reverberant, which helps Lindqvist’s voice.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Songs (6), Op. 32 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Hélène Lindqvist (Soprano), Philipp Vogler (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Persian Songs (12), Op. 34 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Hélène Lindqvist (Soprano), Philipp Vogler (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Russia 
German Songs (6), Op. 72 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Hélène Lindqvist (Soprano), Philipp Vogler (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Russia 

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