Grieg • Sibelius • Stenhammar • Alfvén • Sjöberg

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COMPOSERS: Alfvén; Sjöberg; Grieg; Sibelius; Stenhammar
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Diamonds in the Snow
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano)Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 466 762-2

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The American soprano Barbara Bonney is something of an honorary Scandinavian, and it had to be only a matter of time before she, like Anne Sofie von Otter and Monica Groop before her, would take the songs of Grieg and Sibelius to her heart on disc. Perhaps because we’re used to hearing darker-hued voices take on classics such as Grieg’s ‘Spring’ (‘Våren’), the thaw seems faster, the air thinner here, as Bonney’s ecstatic soprano brings out the rapture in the foreground rather than the melancholy in the background of the song. I find her ‘Jeg elsker dig’ a touch oversweet, but warm to her brilliant sunset view of Rome in ‘Fra monte Pincio’. Antonio Pappano has an easeful, instinctive relationship with the voice, and his playing is no less supportive in five Sibelius songs, including the steamy saga of ‘The girl who came home’, all red hands and red lips – Sibelius’s setting of his beloved Runeberg. This is juxtaposed with Stenhammar’s more subdued setting of the same poem, one of five beautifully crafted musical Golden Age canvases. And the great Swedish art collector and poet Ernest Thiel is honoured in one of a pair of Hugo Alfvén settings which, with a now little-known Sjöberg song, conclude this irresistible recital.

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Hilary Finch