"Twentieth-Century Songs of Spain and Latin America"
SCIAMMARELLA: De la muerte. El viaje definitivo. Cantigas de Amigo. VILLA-LOBOS: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. GRANADOS: El tra la la y el punteado. El mirar de la Maja. El Majo discreto. TURINA: Cantares. NIN: Granadina. GINASTERA: Canción al Arbol del Olvido. Milenda, Cantata No. 3 for Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 37.
Phyllis Curtin, soprano; guitarists The Romeros; pianist Gerald Moore; Denver Symphony Orch/Brian Priestman, cond.
VAI AUDIO 1215 (F) (ADD) TT: 65:13

BARBER: Agnus Dei. MAHLER: Kein deutscher Himmel. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. BACH: Komm, süsser Tod. CHOPIN: Lacrimosa. Lulajze, Jezuniu. RAVEL: Soupir. WOLF: Das verlassene Mägdlien. Auf ein altes Bild. BERG: Die Nachtigall. DEBUSSY: Les Angélus.
Accentus Chamber Choir/Laurence Equilbey, cond.
NAÏVE V 4947 (F) (DDD) TT: 52:22

Arias from Manon, Mignon, Chérubin, La fête du village voisin, Robinson Crusoe, La comte Ory, La fille du régiment, Roméo et Juliette, Hamlet.
Natalie Dessay, soprano; Les Elements Chorus; Toulouse National Capitol Orch/Michel Plasson, cond.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 45610 (F) (DDD) TT: 67:11

Phyllis Curtin's CD is a fascinating document displaying the American soprano in repertory important to her throughout her career.Her interest began when she saw a performance by dancer Argentinita in a Community Concert appearance in her home town in West Virginia. Later she studied Spanish songs, gave concerts in South America, and sang Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with the composer conducting. The first eight tracks on this CD were recorded during a concert in Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress November 28, 1969, accompanied by guitarist Pepe Romero and, for three works, by Celedonio, Celin and Angel Romero as well. The first two Sciammarella songs were composed for Curtin and The Romeros, and it's a pleasure to hear her performing the familiar Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with guitar accompaniment. The eight brief Cantiga de Amigo by Sciammarella and Ginastera's Canción al Arbol del Olvido were recorded during a concert in London in 1966 with pianist Gerald Moore. The major work on this CD, Ginastera's twenty-three minute Cantata No. 3 for Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 37, Milena, with texts based on Franz Kalka's letters to Milena Jesenska, consists of six sections: Praeludium - Ghosts; Cantus I - On Love; Prosa I - On Dreams; Cantus II - Letters; Prosa II - Jealousy and Despair; and Cantus Finalis - On the Infinite. Much of this dramatic work is declamatory. At points the singer is accompanied by violent bursts of orchestral sound, in this 1972 stereo studio recording expertly provided by the Denver Symphony directed by Brian Priestman. This fine recording already is available on the Phoenix label coupled with Peter Mennin's Symphony No. 4. Here it is more appropriately coupled with other Spanish and Latin American music. Sound throughout is excellent, the mono recordings well-balanced, the stereo superb. Program notes are rather skimpy, but there are translations for all works.

Accentus is a chamber choir formed in 1991 directed by Laurence Equilbey for the purpose of promoting the rich a cappella repertory. Her group has appeared with the Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez. There are 34 singers in the group, 9 each of sopranos and basses, 8 each of altos and tenors. They are heard in impressive performances of much music you wouldn't expect to hear sung, particularly the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 transcribed by Gérard Pesson. Samuel Barber made his own arrangement of his Adagio for Strings (here called Agnus Dei), Frank Krawczyk arranged the two Chopin pieces, and Clytus Gottwald arranged most of the remainder. The recording was made in the Arsenal Hall of Metz in France in February 2001. It's unfortunate it wasn't recorded in a more resonant acoustic that would have added more weight to low male voices. It's an intriguing—but very short (52:22)—program.

The CD of French opera arias sung by French soprano Natalie Dessay is disappointing. She already had made a number of admirable complete recordings of a number of operas including some of the most taxing (Ariadne auf Naxos, Lakme, Lucia di Lammermoor, Tales of Hoffman) as well as an interesting disk of Mozart (REVIEW). Her performance of the soprano role in Plasson's recording of Carmina Burana is one of the best ever recorded. However in this recent CD, recorded in the summer of 2003, her voice sometimes displays a wide vibrato verging on a slow trill, an edgy quality as well. Complete texts are provided in French, German and English.

R.E.B. (January 2004)