WORKS: Songs by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Fauré, Copland, Barber
PERFORMER: Heidi Grant Murphy (soprano); Kevin Murphy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Z 6716
The story behind the programme on this disc is a touching one. Ken Noda, a musical assistant at the Met, was asked by the family of his neighbour, who had died in the 1996 TWA air disaster, to nominate a singer for the neighbour’s memorial service. He came up with the name of Heidi Grant Murphy, and went further, compiling a list of suitable songs on the subjects of innocence and spirituality.
Here, presumably, they are, beginning with Wagner’s ‘Der Engel’ and Mahler’s ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’, going on through well-known songs by Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, including Schubert’s ‘Wiegenlied’ and ‘Litanei’ and Brahms’s ‘Wiegenlied’, and ending with Copland’s ‘Long Time Ago’ and ‘The Little Horses’. Although the packaging seems a little home-made and is sometimes cringe-making – Heidi Grant Murphy, would you believe, is ‘a real person who dreams, breathes, experiences, sings, giggles…’ – the music-making is what matters.
It is deeply satisfying. Murphy’s singing reminds me rather of that of Elly Ameling. The voice is lightish, intimate, yet for all that intense and rounded, and the personality that shines through is an endearing one. Her only minor faux pas here is Handel’s ‘V’adoro, pupille’, from Giulio Cesare, in which concern for vocal quality is exercised at the expense of fluidity of phrase, always vital to this composer. Her husband Kevin Murphy, author of the gushing words just quoted, is her ever sensitive pianist. Stephen Pettitt