Lieberson : Neruda Songs

COMPOSERS: Lieberson
LABELS: Trumpet Swan
PERFORMER: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzosoprano); Boston SO/James Levine


The death of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson last year deprived us of a great singer at the height of her powers. Her profound musicianship, impeccable sense of line and peerless legato are all displayed in this live performance of five settings of love sonnets by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, composed by her husband, Peter Lieberson, and the last work he wrote for her.

In themselves, they form a highly successful piece. Lieberson’s orchestral writing is both opulent and sensual, highly selective and invariably effective in its use of instrumental colour. Above it soars a magnetic voice, itself varied and colourful, used with outstanding artistry.

Each of the five settings is distinctive, while as a unified work the piece works brilliantly. Lieberson has here turned something deeply personal into something of much wider significance.


The cycle deserves many more performances. But few will be as good as this. James Levine and the Boston Symphony give a fluid account of the accompaniments, though the sound is not ideally blended.