Decades: A Century of Song – Vol. 2, 1820-30

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COMPOSERS: Bellini,Glinka,Loewe,Mendelssohn,Niedermeyer,Schubert,Schumann
LABELS: Vivat
ALBUM TITLE: Decades: A Century of Song
WORKS: Vol. 2, 1820-30: Bellini, Glinka, Loewe, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Niedermeyer and Schumann
PERFORMER: Anush Hovhannisyan (soprano), Sarah Connolly (mezzo), John Mark Ainsley, Robin Tritschler, Luis Gomes (tenor), Christopher Maltman (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VIVAT 114

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The second volume of Vivat’s Decades series focuses on the 1820s, Schubert featuring prominently in the years that saw his creativity rise to a peak just before his early death. The young Mendelssohn and Schumann make single appearances, and there are groups of Russian songs by Glinka and Italian ariettas by Bellini. Two Loewe ballads offer a supernatural contrast to Schubert, and there’s a single French example from the Swiss-born, Paris-based Louis Niedermeyer. Some of these songs are unfamiliar, but there’s a relatively high percentage of popular examples – several of Schubert’s, for instance, including his Ave Maria (aka Ellens Gesang III) and Im Frühling.

The singers have been well chosen. Portuguese tenor Luis Gomes is impassioned in Bellini’s small domestic substitutes for operatic arias, while Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan brings vitality and personality to Glinka – again influenced by opera as well as the Lieder tradition – and delightful discoveries. Sarah Connolly is grand yet subtly inflected in Schubert, Irish tenor Robin Tritschler dramatic in Niedermeyer’s Le lac.

The most sizable contributions come from tenor John Mark Ainsley and baritone Christopher Maltman, the former establishing an intimate connection with the listener in Im Frühling and drawing you into the heart of Schubert’s Der Winterabend. The latter is compelling in narrative – like a book you can’t put down – conveying the sinister quality of Loewe’s two fatal experiences of the Erl-King and his daughter. Pianist Malcolm Martineau is superb, technically immaculate and consistently imaginative.

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George Hall