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Thread: Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Eté

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Default Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Eté

    Berlioz is one of my absolute favourite composers and I've just enjoyed a concentrated period of listening to all my Berlioz recordings, which embrace almost all his works.

    I finished off with my ten different recordings of his gorgeous song cycle Les Nuits d'Eté and reviewed them all for my blog. My conclusions can be viewed there if anyone is interested.

    https://tsaraslondon.com/2021/07/07/...es-nuits-dete/
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Jul-07-2021 at 19:59.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    I have none of those recordings! I do have Reiner/Price/CSO.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by david johnson View Post
    I have none of those recordings! I do have Reiner/Price/CSO.
    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.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Berlioz is one of my absolute favourite composers and I've just enjoyed a concentrated period of listening to all my Berlioz recordings, which embrace almost all his works.

    I finished off with my ten different recordings of his gorgeous song cycle Les Nuits d'Eté and reviewed them all for my blog. My conclusions can be viewed there if anyone is interested.

    https://tsaraslondon.com/2021/07/07/...es-nuits-dete/
    For something completely different, try Jose van Dam, either orchestrated or with piano:

    jvd1.jpg

    jvd2.jpg

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    For something completely different, try Jose van Dam, either orchestrated or with piano:

    jvd1.jpg

    jvd2.jpg
    Ralph Moore, in his survey, gives both recordings a cautious thumbs up, but, like me, he prefers a female voice in the songs, so, admire Van Dam though I do, I'm not sure it woud do it for me.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Berlioz is one of my absolute favourite composers and I've just enjoyed a concentrated period of listening to all my Berlioz recordings, which embrace almost all his works.

    I finished off with my ten different recordings of his gorgeous song cycle Les Nuits d'Eté and reviewed them all for my blog. My conclusions can be viewed there if anyone is interested.

    https://tsaraslondon.com/2021/07/07/...es-nuits-dete/
    Wonderful overview of a wonderful song cycle. I haven't heard all of the recordings you review, but like you I find the the Baker/Barbirolli supreme, and can hardly imagine it being surpassed. I'm also one of the dissenters on Crespin, but I'll go further and suggest that I find her one of the least exciting sopranos of comparable vocal gifts and reputation I know of. Your description - "tasteful" and "too civilized" - describes my general experience of her work. I think its partly a quality of the voice itself - smoothly sensual in a restrained sort of way, without much inherent intensity. As you say, this works in the urbane Ravel but not so well in the febrile Berlioz. There's French music - and then there's French music.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jul-08-2021 at 15:34.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    When I did my survey of recordings of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Eté a couple of months ago, I hadn't heard Von Stade's version, which was Ralph Moore's favourite in his excellent and more extensive survey on MusicWeb Intrenational. Had I done so, this version would definitely have joined the ranks of my favourites (Baker/Barbirolli, Steber/Mitropoulos and Hunt Lieberson/McGegan), if not quite ousting the Baker from the top spot.

    As usual, Von Stade sings in excellent French and she is able to emabrace the melancholy and pain of the middle songs as well as the lightness and joy of the outer ones. Her lovely voice, with its signature flicker vibrato, is in excellent shape, easily encompassing the wide range of the songs (right down to a secure and resonant low F# on linceul in Sur les lagunes and radiantly beautiful on high.

    The coupling of Debussy's La Damoiselle élue is also lovely and all in all this is a winning disc.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    De Los Angles and Lorraine Hunt are my favorites, and the couplings are impossible to beat as well. I was fortunate to hear Hunt's Handel recital live in Palo Alto.

    Another good one is Herreweghe, but the name of the vocalist escapes me now. I've heard both Von Otters and each has issues - the interpretation in the first, and her aging voice in the second.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philoctetes View Post

    Another good one is Herreweghe, but the name of the vocalist escapes me now. I've heard both Von Otters and each has issues - the interpretation in the first, and her aging voice in the second.
    Is that the one with Brigitte Balleys?
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Berlioz is one of my absolute favourite composers and I've just enjoyed a concentrated period of listening to all my Berlioz recordings, which embrace almost all his works.

    I finished off with my ten different recordings of his gorgeous song cycle Les Nuits d'Eté and reviewed them all for my blog. My conclusions can be viewed there if anyone is interested.

    https://tsaraslondon.com/2021/07/07/...es-nuits-dete/
    Interesting. Unlike you and Ralph Moore, I'd put my favorite, Regine Crespin, well ahead of Eleanor Steber and Janet Baker, great singers but not favorites of mine, and even Victoria de los Angeles and Leontyne Price, who are favorites of mine in other repertoire. A lot of it has to do with the fact that she alone is a native French speaker, which makes a huge difference here. Her idiomatic but not overly-dramatized reading, helped and not hindered by her distinctive though perhaps not textbook-perfect sound, for me is just what is called for. This is not grand opera, and Crespin knows how to tone things down accordingly. Crespin is also fine in Scheherazade, but imo there Crespin's approach is not as perfectly matched to the exotic and foreign atmosphere Ravel so skillfully creates. At least, there, I don't feel so much need for a native French speaker.

    As for the orchestra, Ansermet's OSR was well-known not to be the very best when it came to pure technical skill. And here he was over 80 and near the end of his career and life. So the preference for other orchestras and conductors is understandable. But for me, Ansermet, like Crespin, understands the idiom and knows not to oversell the drama.

    I look forward to the next, probably French, singer who can capture the magic of the nights of summer. But I haven't found her yet.

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    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Has anyone tried Veronique Gens’s version?

    Here’s a sample:


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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    Has anyone tried Veronique Gens’s version?

    Here’s a sample:

    Hasn't she recorded it twice? I've heard the 2001 version under Louis Lagrange. Speeds are very fast and I find the voice much too light. She hasn't got the lower register to do the songs justice. The outer songs are done quite nicely, but where is the longing, the despair, the sensuality, the tragedy that the middle songs require? Not for me, I'm afraid.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    Has anyone tried Veronique Gens’s version?

    Here’s a sample:

    Gens has a ravishingly beautiful voice. But she sings the piece nearly a half tone sharper than Crespin, and that gives it a very different sound. I noticed it sounded sharp the moment I started listening. I wonder if that was intentional on either singer's part, or simply a different tuning convention from different eras. But still, she and the orchestra backing her give it the intimacy it needs.

    Edit: I've now read Tsaraslondon's post, and I wonder if there was a tape speed inaccuracy problem with the Gens recording. It is a little sharp and fast, and perhaps could be more relaxed.
    Last edited by fluteman; Sep-16-2021 at 22:21.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    Gens has a ravishingly beautiful voice. But she sings the piece nearly a half tone sharper than Crespin, and that gives it a very different sound. I noticed it sounded sharp the moment I started listening. I wonder if that was intentional on either singer's part, or simply a different tuning convention from different eras. But still, she and the orchestra backing her give it the intimacy it needs.

    Edit: I've now read Tsaraslondon's post, and I wonder if there was a tape speed inaccuracy problem with the Gens recording. It is a little sharp and fast, and perhaps could be more relaxed.
    I don’t know the recording - I am quite satisfied with the Von Stade recording and found all others de trop. It’s like I’ve been imprinted (a term I read on one of Anne McCaffey’s dragon fantasy novels).
    But the Gens excerpt sounds very high, if you’re used to a mezzo in the songs.
    Last edited by MAS; Sep-17-2021 at 04:30.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    But the Gens excerpt sounds very high, if you’re used to a mezzo in the songs.
    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 (imo) that the lower, mezzo tessitura (if that's the right word) of von Stade does work better. 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. The tension created by Gens' naturally high tessitura and sharp pitch (though her singing is appropriately relaxed) somehow doesn't seem ideal to me.
    Last edited by fluteman; Sep-17-2021 at 19:10.

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