Viardot-Garcia

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COMPOSERS: Viardot-Garcia
LABELS: Analekta
ALBUM TITLE: Viardot-Garcia – Songs
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Isabel Bayrakdarian (soprano), Serouj Kradjian (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AN 2 9903

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Her chief reputation is as one of the greatest singers of the 19th century, an artist who inspired Berlioz, Schumann, Meyerbeer, Brahms, Saint-Saëns and many others. But Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821-1910) – as this collection of songs written to French, German and Italian texts amply demonstrates – was also a composer of considerable gifts.

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A handful of items here are her vocal arrangements of mazurkas by Chopin, which he himself admired, but more important are the original songs, which cover a surprisingly wide range and are not merely attractive salon pieces but beautifully wrought works of art. There are places when Gounod and Fauré (who also composed for her) are recalled, and Viardot does not pale in the comparison. Isabel Bayrakdarian’s light and ethereal soprano finds much charm in these pieces, and enters completely into their spirit. Serouj Kradjian proves a capable accompanist. But the sound – boxy and enclosed, with the piano registering as wooden – is disappointing. George Hall