Brahms • Jacobson • Mahler • Parry • Rubbra • Schubert • Stanford • Wolf

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms; Jacobson; Mahler; Parry; Rubbra; Schubert; Stanford; Wolf
LABELS: Somm
ALBUM TITLE: Kathleen Ferrier Remembered
WORKS: Songs by Brahms, Jacobson, Mahler, Parry, Rubbra, Schubert, Stanford and Wolf
PERFORMER: Kathleen Ferrier (contralto), Gerald Moore, Bruno Walter, Frederick Stone (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 264

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Over 60 years after Kathleen Ferrier’s tragically early death, is she now more than a name to some listeners? She was the greatest British singer of her day, internationally famous, an outwardly straightforward Lancashire girl with a rich contralto voice of such singular, plangent beauty and sensitivity that it apparently moved Herbert von Karajan to tears. Small wonder that every recorded snippet is teased out and restored, as with this grab-bag of BBC broadcasts, some from their archives, others preserved on metal discs by composer and engineer Kenneth Leech. Consequently the sound, although sensibly restored, isn’t up to her mainstream recordings, though enthusiasts needn’t worry. That said, there are some fascinating performances here, from Ferrier’s favourite Brahms, accompanied by Bruno Walter, to Wolf songs she less often performed, and a piano-accompanied fragment of ‘Urlicht’ from Mahler’s Second Symphony. 

Just as enjoyable are rarities like Stanford’s ballad-like ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, considered whiskery at the time, but taken with characteristic sincerity; it finds Ferrier in unusually heroic vein. She makes even more of Rubbra’s sombre Three Psalms and Jacobson’s ecstatic ‘Song of Songs’, with her frequent accompanist Frederick Stone, and, with Gerald Moore, the cheerful Parry ‘Love is a Bable’, live from the 1948 Edinburgh Festival. 

Some of the Schubert doesn’t perhaps bring out the best in her; the opening ‘Musensohn’ lacks the sprightliness that Janet Baker (an inevitable comparison) achieves. But these are all still exceptionally beautiful, valuable reminders of an extraordinary artist.

Michael Scott Rohan

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