Alexander String Quartet perform Poldowski’s Art Songs

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COMPOSERS: Aubert,Debussy,Hahn,Poldowski
LABELS: Delos
ALBUM TITLE: Poldowski
WORKS: Art Songs; plus songs by Debussy, Aubert and Hahn
PERFORMER: Angelique Zuluaga (soprano), Ryan Zwahlen (oboe d’amore), Gwendolyn Mok (piano); Alexander String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: DE 3538

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Poldowski was the pseudonym of Irène Régine Wieniawska, Brussels-born daughter of Wieniawski. After her marriage, she was Lady Dean Paul, based in London. Her first songs were published in the 1890s and for the next three decades she was a prominent figure in the city’s musical life. Yet she was virtually forgotten until recently some astute advocates (notably Philippe Jaroussky and Carolyn Sampson) championed her gorgeous setting of L’heure exquise. Her sophisticated technique and strongly individual style, much of its time, deserve attention. Many of her works, though, remain unpublished or lost. Four of the English songs are world premiere recordings.

Gwendolyn Mok’s piano playing is sympathetic and strongly characterised, and both the Alexander Quartet and, in Soir, Ryan Zwahlen’s oboe d’amore do the composer proud. Yet the soprano of Angelique Zuluaga – piping and reedy, with suppressed vibrato – offers rather too little sensuality, amplitude and variety of colour for the music, and diction could be clearer. This CD is valuable nevertheless for its presentation of so many excellent songs, including those on poems by Verlaine from Fêtes galantes: for heightened atmosphere and harmonic character try Effet de neige, Cythère and Dans une musette, for starters.

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Jessica Duchen