Songs and arrangements by Berg, Britten, Copland, A Frankel, J Tawadros and Vaughan Williams
Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Tamar Halperin (piano)
BMG/Modern Recordings 5053854709 44:05 mins
Sidestep the kitschy photographs; vault over the self-regarding liner notes, and press play. Tamar Halperin’s translucent pianism falls on the ear like balm, a salve compounded by Andreas Scholl’s countertenor which suspends Ari Frankel’s words tranquilly beneath its arching impassivity. Quite what those words might be isn’t always easy to grasp (the omission of texts and translations is regrettable), but then, as the disc unfolds it becomes apparent that musical line and beauty of tone are the predominant drivers of a programme that imaginatively blurs the boundaries between folk song and art song.
Britten and Copland apply a sophisticated commentary, while Vaughan Williams and Berg explore cross-fertilisation. (Full marks for including three of Berg’s seldom-recorded Jugendlieder.) There’s a substantial epilogue too: Joseph Tawadros’ ‘Beauty is Life’ melding oud, countertenor and piano in a crossover that doesn’t quite live up to the sum of its parts.
Scholl’s tendency to gloss over the particularities of text can be frustrating. Where is the fateful weight on the word ‘foolish’ which colours its surroundings in Britten’s arrangement of The Sally Gardens? Or the carefully calibrated increase in disquiet as The Ash Grove unfolds? The title track, Vaughan Williams’s The Twilight People, hovers fitfully on the edge of a deeper mysticism, though happily the sap rises for In the Spring. Easy on the ear, nurtured by artful segues, Scholl’s envisioned ‘twilight’ ultimately delivers not so much ‘Götterdämmerung’ as a comforting milky nightcap before turning in.