Beach: Chanson d’amour; Three Browning Songs; Three Shakespeare Songs; Piano Trio in A minor; Rendezvous

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COMPOSERS: Beach
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Chanson d’amour; Three Browning Songs; Three Shakespeare Songs; Piano Trio in A minor; Rendezvous
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby (soprano); Romantic Chamber Group of London
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1245
The Bostonian pianist and composer Amy Beach was a prolific writer of songs – on the whole rather good ones, sensitive to the texts, fluent in their piano-writing, full of expressive melody both for the voice and, occasionally, for an added violin or cello or both. They are hardly advanced in style: a group of German settings points up the influence of Schumann; a French group has affinities more with Massenet than with Fauré; some ‘big finishes’ come uncomfortably close to the Edwardian ballad. Emma Kirkby, so long the queen of early music, seems an unlikely choice for songs surely conceived for a more operatic voice and manner; but her ease of production, immaculate tuning and care for the words prove winning. She is well partnered by her colleagues, who also give an excellent account of the late, retrospective Piano Trio (though the disc misses a trick by not including the two songs on which its central movement is based). There have been other fine recordings of the Trio, by the Ambache on Chandos, and Joanne Polk with members of the Lark Quartet on Arabesque. But this one is at least their equal, and the coupling with Beach’s songs makes the disc something quite special. Anthony Burton

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