Respighi
Il tramonto *
Schumann
Frauenliebe und Leben, Op.42
Liederkreis, Op.39
Sena Jurinac (soprano)
Franz Holetschek (piano)
Barylli Quartet *
Recorded 1953, Mozartsaal, Vienna
CD No: WESTMINSTER 471 269-2
Duration:
Reviewed: September 2002
Sena Jurinac’s matter-of-fact description of her voice, "I could sing high a bit and low a bit – and so I became a ’maid-of-all-work’" to say the least rather underplays her extraordinary career. But it is as a stage performer rather than a recitalist she is primarily remembered. This wonderful disc demonstrates that the opera houses’ gain was the concert halls’ loss – a slightly odd programme, the Respighi sitting somewhat oddly alongside the two great Schumann cycles, yet as these are the only studio recordings of Jurinac singing Lieder than one has much to be thankful for.
Having never been such a great fan of Respighi’s The Sunset – it just doesn’t seem to do anything or go anywhere! – if this performance couldn’t convince me then I fear nothing will. Warm, expressive singing of what for this writer at least is a rather uninspiring vocal line and careful but impassioned playing from the Barylli Quartet.
Heaven only knows how many recordings there are of the Schumann. Even those with a number of versions on their shelves should be persuaded to hear these performances which are quite magnificent. Not the ideal way to listen to such works, I know, I found myself going back and listening to several songs twice or more to try and hear how Jurinac manages to spin out the effortless legato AND make every word crystal clear AND colour every phrase in an imaginative and interesting way. The performances are never operatic or histrionic in the way that frequently happens when opera-stars turn to the song medium – however, the range of feeling in both cycles is wide and totally convincing. Jurinac has wonder in her voice in the first song of Op.42 (“Since I first saw him…"), poise and simplicity in the fourth ("You, the ring on my finger…") and dark desolation in the last ("Now you have hurt me..."), the lengthy postlude of the latter illustrates the supportive and sympathetic accompaniment of Fritz Holetschek.
The Op.39 Liederkreis is equally beautifully done – I cannot stop listening to ’Mondnacht’, one of the most popular songs in the repertoire, and here given new magic when sung with heart-breaking honesty. Just sample that track and you will be hooked!

 

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