Wagner; Britten; Wolf; J Carter; encores

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner; Britten; Wolf; J Carter; encores
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Christine Brewer
WORKS: Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder; Britten: Cabaret Songs
PERFORMER: Christine Brewer (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0022

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American soprano Christine Brewer is blessed with both a huge and beautiful voice, and the intelligence to make good use of it. Not surprisingly she’s become largely associated with dramatic roles such as her excellent Isolde under Donald Runnicles. However, as she demonstrates here, she’s also a very adept and entertaining recitalist, especially given her evident rapport with the superb accompanist Roger Vignoles. The Wesendonck Lieder, of course, are in the lyric/heroic vein, but she balances her burnished-bronze tone finely to the piano while soaring with fervour and only the faintest upper-register strain. Wolf might seem a less natural choice, but the Tristanesque Mignon songs are among his richest (overblown, to some) and she brightens her voice for their youthful character, with an expressive ‘Kennst du das Land?’. Sadly, she does rather overpower the Britten/Auden Cabaret Songs, with their featherweight wit and spoofs from Scots folk-song to Cole Porter, but she has the humour and the idiom to get by, and her dark lower register enhances ‘Funeral Blues’ (poem familiar from Four Weddings…). Carter’s unaffected Cantata on black spirituals she makes distinctly memorable. Generous encores, including ‘Mira’ from the musical Carnival, also on her Chandos aria disc, round off a thoroughly enjoyable recital. Michael Scott Rohan