Le Rossignol et la Rose

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COMPOSERS: Purcell; Hahn; Strauss; Grieg; Berg; Krenek; Franck; Viardot; Bellini; Mahler; Meyerbeer; Saint-Saëns
ALBUM TITLE: Le Rossignol et la Rose
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Chen Reiss (soprano), Charles Spencer (piano)


It’s an imaginative idea to build a programme around German, French, Italian and English songs that celebrate the romantic, humorous, mythic and sometimes consoling relationship between the nightingale and the rose. And how brave to choose songs that celebrate Keats’s ‘immortal’ bird ‘not born for death’ and Goethe’s vengeful ‘Röslein auf der Heiden’ from composers as varied as Pauline Viardot, Mahler, Purcell and Krenek. Naturally all the usual suspects are here too: Strauss, Schubert, Schumann, Fauré and Brahms. It is a measure of her gifts that Chen Reiss takes all these composers in her stride.

That vocal stride is impressive: sustained lyric tone that is only rarely forced – say in Fauré’s glorious Les Roses d’Ispahan – allied to a dazzling coloratura that sends her high above the stave at the end of Bellini’s Vanne, o rosa fortunate. Reiss is mistress of her material and its changing moods from Berg’s Die Nachtigall oozing with desire to Grieg’s gloomy Nordic Zur Rosenzeit. Perhaps Mahler’s Ablösung im Sommer with the nightingale taking over summer singing duties from the cuckoo was not a perfect choice for Reiss’s talents, but she finds the quirky humour. Charles Spencer is as ever the perfect partner, always supporting and never leading unless it is demanded of him.


Christopher Cook