WORKS: Love Songs; plus songs by Fred E Ahlert, Barbara, Bernstein, Jacques Brel, Lars Färnlöf, Léo Ferré, Michel Legrand, John Lennon/Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Richard Rodgers & Bob Telson
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Brad Mehldau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: V 5241
If you’re expecting a conventional diva overpowering popular tunes with opulent washes of classical technique, fear not. Von Otter obviously likes and understands the musical styles here, from Ute Lemper-ish cabaret jazz to Euro-musicals, swoony, soft-centred but often bitter-sweet. She’s able to adapt her mezzo, with a higher, bluesy delivery, to the extent that she usually sounds like a different singer – one you wouldn’t identify sight unseen.
In the French songs by Barbara and Jacques Brel, for example, she masters the laid-back, breathy Françoise Hardy manner quite naturally, while ‘Walking My Baby Back Home’ would sound quite Streisand-ish if she weren’t singing in Swedish. It may be mimickry rather than her own distinctive sound, but it works well enough. Mehldau is a reflective accompanist.
His own Love Songs are largely in the jazz-artsong vein, with a sensuous, rather freeform vocal line underpinned by complex, often dissonant accompaniments – occasionally excessively. They’re not unappealing but ultimately I didn’t find them very memorable – which may be just me. Michael Scott Rohan