JULIA MORGAN: MAHLER RÜCKERT-LIEDER • Julia Morgan (mez); Amanda Johnston (pn); Jody Davenport (vl) • MSR MS 1402 (52:40 Text and Translation)
SIBELIUS Six Lieder, op. 50. BRAHMS Two Songs, op. 91. SCHUBERT Abendstern. Nachtviolen. Auf der Donau, Read more class="ARIAL12">op. 21/1. MAHLER Rückert-Lieder (6)
Young Canadian mezzo-soprano Julia Morgan provides us here with a selection of German Lieder, some well-known staples with lesser known gems (as the publicist puts it) as her premiere recording on the MSR Classics label. Morgan is a graduate of University of Victoria and the opera program at the University of Toronto with some advanced training in Europe, part of it on the Lieder repertoire. Like many young singers she is taking on recital and concert work while she attends auditions and learns new opera roles as she establishes her singing career. Here, along with long-standing collaborator, pianist Amanda Johnston, Morgan gives us works from Schubert, Brahms, Sibelius, and Mahler, none of which are particularly lesser known although some may be lesser sung and recorded. Mahler’s Rückert Lieder were originally composed for voice and orchestra, but are quite often performed with piano accompaniment, as here.
Morgan has a pleasant, lyric mezzo voice with a silvery quality that fits nicely with many of these songs. She seems a little out of sync with the piano on the first Sibelius piece, “Lenzgesang,” and strains a bit on the high notes, but both problems disappear as she moves further into the program. Morgan’s diction is excellent and her German seems good, but the young singer at times seems to lack the last degree of emotive expression some of these pieces require. Of course that can be said about many young singers. Morgan has a smooth transition from midrange to high notes and excellent control of dynamic range although sometimes she lets that substitute for vocal coloration. Both Brahms selections, his op. 91, are also accompanied by viola, supplied here by Jody Davenport, a welcome change for the ear from piano and voice alone. To my mind the instrument is recorded just a shade too forward of the others.
I won’t claim these are the best sung versions of all of these pieces, or even some of them, although they are all sung well. There is lots of competition out there from some very fine singers, but this is an attractive recital program showcasing an attractive young voice if you are interested.