And Love Said…
Britten: On this Island; Gurney: Five Elizabethan Songs; Leterme: Two Poems by Oscar Wilde; Milhaud: Two Love Songs, Op. 30; Walton: Three Songs from Façade; plus songs by Bridge, Mercury, Poldowski, Quilter, Tailleferre and Vaughan Williams
Jodie Devos (soprano), Nicolas Krüger (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA668 68:58 mins
Acclaimed for her pitch-perfect album of Offenbach arias (reviewed May 2019), Belgian soprano Jodie Devos, superbly accompanied by pianist Nicolas Krüger, now demonstrates a more intimate style. Less predictably, several of these English-language songs are by non-British composers: for instance, Milhaud’s ecstatic pair of Love Songs (setting Tagore), in turn contrasted with two astringent Oscar Wilde settings by young Belgian composer Patrick Leterme; written specially for Devos, these exploit her secure intonation and ability to hit stratospheric notes.
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Devos’s genuine affection for this repertoire shines through, whether in her spirited account of Quilter’s ‘Love’s Philosophy’ (the song with which she won her place at the Royal Academy of Music), or in the limpid enchantment of Walton’s ‘Daphne’. Yet in other (less thoroughly prepared?) songs her vowel sounds are sometimes ‘mid-Atlantic’ and often inconsistent: in Bridge’s ‘Love went a-riding’ I hear at least three different pronunciations of ‘us’.
With Britten’s cycle On this Island, Devos’s sheer accuracy and panache outshines many sopranos on record. Yet I’m not always convinced she quite finds the tricky balance between the ‘art’ of Auden and Britten’s songs and the deeper emotions their manner only lightly mask. The ‘cute’ insouciance with which Devos delivers ‘As it is plenty’ works alright, but I find the edginess of Elizabeth Atherton’s account with Malcolm Martineau (on Onyx) yet more credible. Still, a lovely recital overall.
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