Music from Marlboro — CASALS, DVORAK, MENDELSSOHN – Sony/Archiv

by | Sep 11, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Music from Marlboro = CASALS: Six Songs; DVORAK: Four Moravian Duets, Op. 20; MENDELSSOHN: Six Duets, Op. 63 –  Mary Burgess, soprano/Jon Humphrey, tenor/Luis Batlle, piano/Benita Valente and Ilona Kombrink, sopranos (Dvorak)/Luis Batlle, piano/Olga Iglesias, soprano/Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano (Casals)
Sony 92168, 47:16 [Distr. ArkivMusic.com] ****:
This collection of vocal works proves ingratiating and rewarding. The Dvorak and Mendelssohn songs were recorded in New York City, 16-17 August 1966; the Casals songs derive from sessions 11-14 July 1966 from Marlboro, Vermont. Delightful, the Four Moravian Duets of Dvorak (1875) represent his own burgeoning nationalism. Adapting folk verse for soprano and tenor, the Dvorak sets themes that resemble those of his idol, Schubert: love, loss, parting, death, the joys and ravages of Nature. “Destined” intertwines the voices of Mary Burgess and Jon Humphrey in marvelous harmony, especially as they sing in Czech. “The Parting” employs a polka or sousedska rhythm for a sly moment of flirtation. “Chudoba” or The Silken Band laments the “chagrins” of love of a poor orphan who fears ridicule. “Vure Soha, Vure” (The Last Wish)  celebrates requited love, but the imminent enlistment of the lad in war may separate them for eternity, unless they be buried together.
The Mendelssohn collection of duets date from 1836-1844. The Heine poem “I Would That My Love” wants the persona’s declaration of love to waft on the very air, perpetually. “Farewell Song to the Birds of Passage” offers a keyboard part close to Schubert’s familiar “Staendchen,” exploiting the conceit of summer fled, leaving the poor birds to face a bleak winter of discontent. Eichendorff’s “Gruss” (Greeting) embraces the courtly conceit of loving a maiden too high in station to embrace in this life, though the lover may cherish his affection forever. Valente (b. 1934) and Kombrink (b. 1932) are admirably suited in their light lyric sopranos to engage this gesture. “Autumn Song” extends the analogy of a passing springtime into a barren season bereft of love. Robert Burns supplies the lyrics for “Volkslied,” a love song in the cavalier tradition of finding paradise in the desert, were the lover to share his destiny. “The Maybell and the Flowers” acknowledges the change of seasons and the passing of one’s fancy, but the persona decides to participate in the frolic of love nevertheless.
Olga Iglesias and veteran Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993) collaborate in six songs from Pablo Casals (1876-1973), composed along the course of sixty-five years. The Canco Catalana No. 1 (1895) laments the early death of a child, innocence risen to heaven, untimely loss. Canco Catalana No. 2 reminds us of Granados in the keyboard while the persona acknowledges how the very elements of nature have transformed in love. ‘Sea Foam” after the poet Llongueras (1935) attests to the numinous quality of love, as Nature and the lover assume infinite shapes and possibilities of renewal. “Tres Estrofas de Amor“ (Three Verses of Love) is a poem by Tomas Blanco which Casals dedicated to Maria Casals. Its marine conceits match Elizabeth‘s Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee” almost point for point. “Ballad of the New Solveig” by Ventura Gasol extends the lament of love, hope, and yearning we know from Grieg’s Peer Gynt or even Penelope of Greek legend. The lush piano part captures the languor of the waves as surely as Iglesias’ poignant soprano reaches into distant waters to find her lost love. The final lyric, from Rafael Montanez’ “El Angel Travieso” (The Mischievous Angel), seems to parody love’s possessiveness, as the persona worries that a covetous angel may rob him of his beloved. In Spanish like the “Three Verses of Love,” the words resonate with an edgy melancholy irony, as do the broken chords of Horszowski’s part.
—Gary Lemco

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