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Thread: Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Eté

  1. #16
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    That's true too, but it doesn't just sound high, it's pitched a half tone sharp, as are all four parts of her recording. You're right that the lower, mezzo tessitura (if that's the right word) of von Stade does work better for me. But there is more to it than that. These are songs set to poetry that explores themes of love and love's loss in an introspective and meditative rather than a dramatic way. There is no action or dramatic narrative. They need a more intimate approach than, say, Lucia's mad scene or Tosca leaping to her death. Then tension created by Gens' naturally high tessitura and sharp pitch (though her singing is appropriately relaxed) somehow doesn't seem ideal to me.
    I actually don't agree with you. I wouldn't say that they need a more passionate approach. The themes and the poetry often suggest the vivid grand guignol of so much poetry of the Romantic era, especially French Romantic poetry. To me they cry out for a Cassandre or a Didon, sometimes a Margeurite. I agree that it is a pleasure to hear Crespin singing in her own language, but she just sails impassively through the songs, as if their greater passions don't affect her at all. Where are those grands désirs inappaisées?

    I agree with David Cairns (in Song on Record, Volume 2 and Ralph Moore in his survey of most of the extant recordings that the best ones are Eleanore Steber, Janet Baker, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Von Stade.

    The link to my own survey is in the OP.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Sep-17-2021 at 18:47.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  3. #17
    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    I actually don't agree with you. I wouldn't say that they need a more passionate approach. The themes and the poetry often suggest the vivid grand guignol of so much poetry of the Romantic era, especially French Romantic poetry. To me they cry out for a Cassandre or a Didon, sometimes a Margeurite. I agree that it is a pleasure to hear Crespin singing in her own language, but she just sails impassively through the songs, as if their greater passions don't affect her at all. Where are those grands désirs inappaisées?

    I agree with David Cairns (in Song on Record, Volume 2 and Ralph Moore in his survey of most of the extant recordings that the best ones are Eleanore Steber, Janet Baker, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Von Stade.

    The link to my own survey is in the OP.
    In Villanelle, the narrator reflects on how he/she will walk in the woods with his/her lover in Springtime. In Le Spectre de la rose, the ghost of a rose (or the narrator) reflects on the previous glittering evening with his/her lover at a ball. In Sur les legunes, the narrator mourns his/her dead lover. In Absence, the narrator longs for the return of his/her absent lover. In Au cimetiere, the narrator is in a cemetery contemplating the immortal soul; In L'ile inconnu, the narrator asks (rhetorically, one presumes) a beautiful young woman what life and love have in store for her.

    So, three internal reflections on the future, and three internal reflections on the past. None of these poems directly portrays external action. None tells a story directly, though past and future anticipated acts and events are implied or referenced.

    This is what separates this important poetic and literary tradition from drama or theater. It is introspective and reflective, and not concerned with current acts and events. For me, that they are non-theatrical has important implications on how these songs should be sung. That is more important to me than a "great voice". As for various rankings, with respect, they mean little to me. Each of the singers you mention is immensely famous, as is this music. I probably can listen to all of them on youtube or Spotify. But I've enjoyed reading your comments.

    Edit after some listening: Leontyne Price and Eleanor Steber give me exactly what I don't want in this music, i.e., operatic drama. De los Angeles and Baker (with Barbirolli), not as far off, but also not for me. Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is much better. She understands the texts and obviously is familiar with Crespin's recording. She was an impressive singer. And I completely agree with your review of that recording.
    Last edited by fluteman; Sep-18-2021 at 04:08.

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    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    I don't recall hearing it, but it gets a thumbs up from Ralph Moore, if not challenging versions by Baker, Hunt Lieberson, Steber and Von Stade.
    “Thumbs Up?” Did film buzz words invade Classical Vocal Music critique?

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    “Thumbs Up?” Did film buzz words invade Classical Vocal Music critique?
    So sorry. I hadn't realised there was some sort of accepted lexicon in place for "Classical Vocal Music" critique. I'll inform the powers that be.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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