Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms & Dvor‡k

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COMPOSERS: Brahms & Dvorák,Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn,Schumann
ALBUM TITLE: First Encounter
WORKS: Duets by Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms & Dvorák
PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano), Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
A demeaning title for an important release, for this is much more than a ‘brief encounter’. Two fine singers have recorded a late gift for this year’s Dvorák centenary, the Moravian Duets that helped to establish the composer’s reputation beyond Prague. And handsomely wrapped it is, too, with Angelika Kirchschlager’s dark gold to Barbara Bonney’s bright silver in duets where the voices really do meld, even if there is sometimes a sameness about their sound. However, in ‘Freudlich lass uns scheiden’ the attack is exemplary and the vocal mirroring of the final two lines a joy to hear. Kirschlager’s phrasing in ‘Wasser und Weinen’ would melt the iciest heart and here, as ever, Bonney is the most generous of artistic collaborators. Perhaps the bloom has deserted the top of her voice, but the rest is as secure and as intelligently used as ever. In Dvo?ák, and the duets by the Mendelssohns, brother and sister, Schumann and Brahms, Malcolm Martineau is as suave a pianist as you can find on the concert platform nowadays. A stylist, too: the cascading postlude to Brahms’s ‘Weg der Liebe’ (Op. 20/1) admirably complements the exuberance of the voices. Two cavils: the booklet essay has little of real value to say about this music and the translations, particularly of the Dvo?ák songs, are dire. Christopher Cook