Purcell; Crumb

COMPOSERS: Purcell; Crumb
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Apparition
WORKS: Purcell: Music for a While; If Music be the Food of Love; Dido’s Lament, etc.Crumb: Three Early Songs; Apparition
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer (soprano), Eric Schneider (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 40211
Given Christine Schäfer’s wide-ranging repertoire, this mixing of 17th-century English and 20th-century American songs is no surprise. Everything about this recital hangs together without strain – even the gear changes between Purcell and Crumb and the Shakespearean quotes spoken by a boy’s voice, sometimes given a rather sinister quality through electronic treatments. (Beware the forte chord 16 seconds into the first whispered track, especially if you are listening on earphones.)

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Notwithstanding that most of the Purcell pieces are drawn from theatrical contexts, here and there I found Schäfer’s delivery just a tad too grand operatic. That point of personal taste aside, these are fine accounts. Her exemplary clarity of tone and diction, and her emotional commitment to both composers, make for a powerful recital.

Crumb’s Three Early Songs (1947) setting Southey and Sara Teasdale, and Apparition (1979) drawing on Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d are atmospheric and affecting. Schneider’s playing is incisive yet sensitive and responsive, no less so when using amplified piano for Apparition.

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Barry Witherden