COMPOSERS: Britten,Dvorak,Grainger,Kodaly,Larsson,Reynaldo Hahn & Gunnar Hahn
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Folksongs
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Bengt Forsberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 463 479-2
This generous selection of 35 numbers features a rather ‘high class’ of folksong. It opens with a Dvorák cycle that finds Anne Sofie von Otter darkening her voice to summon up a gypsy world, and her singing flashes with brilliance in such songs as ‘Mein Triangel’. The Swedish mezzo is at her most involved here, and receives detailed support from her regular pianist Bengt Forsberg. This is Dvorák setting German, and over an hour later the disc ends with Britten arranging French songs. Percy Grainger is represented in English rather than Australian mode – there are Lincolnshire milkmaids rather than billabongs, and though von Otter’s English is excellent, her ‘regional’ accents sound a little self-conscious.
Reynaldo Hahn, a Venezuelan-born Frenchman, is included for his justly famous Venezia, and here the mezzo is appropriately seductive. But her performances here and elsewhere never make it quite clear whether she regards this music as art song first and folksong second, or the other way around. Still, she brings a sense of fun to her Kodály set – a Hungarian being Hungarian – especially in a miniature like the tipsy ‘Drinking wine on Sunday’, where Forsberg responds well to the adventurous accompaniments. And of course the Swedish settings find them totally in their element. John Allison