Into the Fire
Debussy: Trois chansons de Bilitis; F Gruber: Silent Night; Jake Heggie: Camille Claudel – Into the Fire; Lekeu: Molto adagio sempre cantante doloroso; R Strauss: Schlichte Weisen, Op. 21 Nos 1 & 2; Die Nacht; Morgen, etc.
Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano); Brentano Quartet
Erato 9029564219 74:57 mins
The most substantial item in this live recording from Wigmore Hall (21 December 2017) is Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, Jake Heggie’s song-cycle to a text by Gene Scheer composed in 2012 for Joyce DiDonato and the Alexander String Quartet (here replaced by the Brentano Quartet). Its subject is the sculptor Camille Claudel – for a time Rodin’s lover, but placed in an asylum for the last 30 years of her life.
The result is a well-crafted score over 30 minutes in length. The playing is excellent, while DiDonato supplies her usual command and commitment, though there is little originality in the piece itself. The rest of the programme dates from the last decades of the 19th century, and Heggie’s language feels more or less contemporary with that period. Heggie skilfully arranges for string quartet Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis (1897), with DiDonato the calm and collected deliverer of Pierre Louÿs’s charged and occasionally erotic texts. In the half-dozen Strauss songs arranged by Misha Amory and Mark Steinberg, DiDonato’s approach is musicianly and light of touch, entering into each item with measured tone and a focus on the text. Lekeu’s purely instrumental and quietly intense Molto adagio forms a welcome bonus.