Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boulanger and Chabrier,Britten,Debussy,Faure,Gounod,Hahn,Poulenc,Purcell,Quilter,Schubert,Schumann,Strauss
WORKS: Works by Purcell, Schumann, Quilter, Britten, Gounod, Fauré, Strauss, Schubert, Poulenc, Hahn, Debussy, Boulanger and Chabrier
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)


A sweetly scented posy this, for the wunderschönen Monat Mai. Carolyn Sampson’s floribunda of a recital should be just the thing for the giftshop of every Botanical Garden. Perfect, too, for all who love Sampson’s fragrant, light-filled, warmly communicative soprano. Surprisingly, this is her solo recital debut on disc.

The bouquet was Joseph Middleton’s idea, and his fluent and always idiomatic playing accompanies Sampson with glee and grace throughout – first through songs whose English, French, German and Russian texts are all inspired by the rose. Sampson’s soprano luxuriates in the melismas of Purcell’s cool evening breeze, inhabits the passions of Britten’s Pushkin setting, The Nightingale and the Rose and, refreshingly, refuses to over-indulge Fauré’s Roses d’Ispahan.

This programme is the perfect place in which to showcase Richard Strauss’s four Mädchenblumen, after enjoying the free-flight into paradise of his Der Rosenband. Sampson and Middleton nicely choose Schubert’s bosky, frolicking Im Haine rather than the obvious Heidenröslein. And for Verlaine’s poem Green, they veer away from the well-known Debussy and Fauré settings, heading instead towards a beautifully focused performance of Hahn’s hushed, and lesser-known Offrande.

Poulenc provides the disc’s title-song – and Sampson and Middleton capture its dark, chaste ecstasy as incomparably as they enjoy the exuberance of their final Chabrier Toutes les fleurs.


Hilary Finch