The Ballad Singer

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Cole Porter,Loewe,Mahler
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs by Beethoven, Brahms, Loewe, Mahler, Cole Porter
PERFORMER: Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano)

A new idea for the anthology disc: here is Gerald Finley, in his vocal prime, as balladeer – telling tales of misadventure and gothic horror, from Romantic takes on medieval Scottish crimes of passion, to spooky Victorian parlour melodramas. Quite what constitutes a ballad is open to question and debated in Richard Wigmore’s accompanying essay. I hadn’t thought of Beethoven’s flea-song from Goethe’s Faust as one, nor Sullivan’s ‘The Lost Chord’, though this is sung with admirable seriousness; and it leads to a more modern use of the term in Finley’s deliciously timed performance of ‘The Tale of the Oyster’ by Porter.
But, yes, they’re all tales and Finley is a fine tale-teller. In Loewe, he sounds as though he’s singing just for you, the listener, so rapt and intense is his communication. Drake is a fine accomplice, tuning his fingers to full orchestral capacity for Schumann’s psycho-drama ‘Die Löwenbraut’ and Wolf’s ‘Der Feuerreiter’, and relishing the cries of vultures and the tinkle of camel-train bells in Louis Emanuel’s hilarious rescue-drama, ‘The Desert’. Hilary Finch