Lines Written During a Sleepless Night – The Russian Connection
Britten: The Poet’s Echo; Grieg: Six Songs, Op. 48; Medtner: Songs After Goethe Nos 2 & 7; Rachmaninov: Six Songs, Op. 38; Sibelius: Spring is Flying; Reeds, Reeds, Whisper; The maiden came from her lover’s tryst; Was it a dream?; Tchaikovsky: Six French Songs, Op. 65
Louise Alder (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20153 73:33 mins
Rachmaninov composed his Op. 38 songs in 1916, the year in which Louise Alder’s grandparents were forced to flee Russia, an exile that sets a personal seal on this imaginative anthology circling songs by Russian composers, songs in Russian and more. Tchaikovsky sets French in his Op. 65 Mélodies; Medtner, the German of Goethe; and the disc’s title comes from Britten’s Pushkin-setting cycle The Poet’s Echo, a typically adroitly assembled garland for soprano Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband Mstislav Rostropovich composed in 1965.
Add in the Swedish of songs spanning three opuses by Sibelius, (not to mention Grieg grappling with German) and Alder needs her linguistic wits about her – pianist Joseph Middleton too as he responds to or prefigures her changing colours and inflections. Both triumph across a nightscape – its trajectory by no means exclusively ‘nocturnal’ – in which dreaming weaves a potent Leitmotiv. Indeed, Alder’s delicious floating of the enveloping lines of Rachmaninov’s Op 38 No. 5 is a particular highlight. So, too, are her impassioned climaxes in the last two songs of a Sibelius selection that should inspire those who encounter him only in orchestral music to explore further. Best of all is the Britten, whose elusive, often austere pithiness unites soprano and pianist in a tautly-charged account of ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, while the disc’s haunting title song encourages the most pellucid ‘tick-tocking’ from Middleton’s piano. At the end, the clock ticks but time, paradoxically, seems almost to stand still. Mesmerising.