PETER LIEBERSON: Neruda Songs – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, soprano/ James Levine, conductor/ Boston Symphony Orchestra – Nonesuch

by | Feb 1, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

PETER LIEBERSON: Neruda Songs – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, soprano/ James Levine, conductor/ Boston Symphony Orchestra – Nonesuch 79954-2, 31:51 *****:

These selections from the 100 Sonnets by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda provide the perfect vehicle and a touching farewell by composer Peter Lieberson to his late wife, Lorraine Hunt. Hunt died in July of 2006 after suffering several years of illness, but not before she and her husband had been able to premiere this delicate work in Boston and Los Angeles, asking the renowned James Levine and his BSO to co-sponsor and record the work.

One can only get hints from the notes (by both Liebersons) at the intimate and almost
sacrosanct nature of their relationship, and how much this work meant to both of them. After reading their comments, I almost felt like an intruder when listening to the music. The poems speak of unabashed love, of the sense of loss, and of the unending nature of love. This sequence could almost describe the nine year cycle of marriage that they spent together, and one at once revels in the glory of the intimacy and recoils at the embarrassing nature of such private thoughts.

But Peter Lieberson has expressed quite openly his thoughts on the whole experience: “I loved Lorraine completely and have never felt so completely loved”.

The songs themselves are highly expressive, melodic, atmospheric, Bergian, and yet softer than that, almost Mahler-like with more ambiance, certainly the Mahler of Das Lied. But Mahler was never so personal in this sense, more of a universal personality in his music. This is personal on the most personal of levels. Levine, undoubtedly moved by the whole experience, was the perfect choice for such an undertaking, and the BSO plays beautifully in Nonesuch’s warm, enveloping sound.

The poems are: “If your eyes were not the color of the moon” (VIII); “Love, love, the clouds went up the tower of the sky” (XXIV); “Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because” (XLV); “And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream” (LXXXI); “My love, if I die and you don’t” (XCII).

There are only 31 minutes of music here, but quite frankly, you can’t set a price on an album like this. It may be destined to be one of the premier songs cycles of our time, and as such, is a mandatory acquisition for all classical music lovers—and lovers in general. A splendid tribute to a great singer.

— Steven Ritter
 

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