Elly Ameling singes Schubert & Schumann song cycles

by | Jun 1, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42; SCHUBERT: Lieder for
Gretchen, Ellen and Suleika – Elly Ameling, soprano/Dalton Baldwin,
piano – PentaTone Stereo-only SACD 5186 131,  64:57****:

For a reissue CD, this recital of Schumann’s song-cycle after Chamisso,
Woman’s Life and Love (rec. 1973) and Schubert songs (rec. 1975) by
Elly Ameling is a brilliant, sonic document and a testimony to
impeccable musicianship. I met Elly Ameling after an evening
performance in Atlanta some years ago, where we spoke, and she signed
my RCA Victrola LP of Schubert songs (and The Shepherd on the Rock)
with Jorg Demus. Ameling, who is a Rotterdam-born artist of first rank,
studied lieder with Pierre Bernac, renowned as a Schumann interpreter.
A natural coloratura soprano, Ameling finds the lieder repertory a
suave and expressive medium for her warm timbre, and some see Ameling
as a direct artistic descendant of Elisabeth Schumann.

A product of Schumann’s song-year, 1840, the cycle Women’s Life and
Love describes an evolving course of life and the stages of love and
value in a woman’s consciousness. The piano part provides a step-wise,
falling figure – a kind of tragic leitmotif which marks the finality of
all human relations. From burgeoning awareness of love, through
courtship, marriage, childbirth, and death, the narrator moves with a
lyric resignation to the vicissitudes of fortune. The piano urges
wedding bells and tolls the death-knell. In restored digital sound, the
interplay of voice and keyboard is entirely refreshed, the span of
thirty years since the studio recording simply vanishes.

The Schubert songs are a compendium of Goethe, Willemer, and Scott
settings, with some whirlwind piano writing in the Suleika songs which
Dalton Baldwin carries off with aplomb. The Scott settings, taken from
The Lady of the Lake, include the ubiquitous Ave Maria, which Ameling
renders with restrained passion. The Young Nun, Gretchen at the
Spinning Wheel (with the great, pregnant pause at sein Kuss!), have had
great interpretations from Sigrid Onegin, Kirsten Flagstad, Erna
Berger, and here, with Ameling. The combination of crisp, lucid diction
and melting middle voice make the Schubert selections irresistible. One
of three discs devoted to the Ameling-Schubert experience, this
PentaTone CD makes my short list of vocal treasures for 2005.

–Gary Lemco 

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