None but the Lonely Heart

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,R Strauss,Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Debussy: Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire; plus songs by Tchaikovsky and R Strauss
PERFORMER: Amanda Roocroft (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)

What a difference intelligent hard work can make. The strong, bright soprano with the gleaming middle register on this disc hardly sounds like the same Amanda Roocroft who made her over-ambitious, plums-in-the-mouth EMI debut back in the early 1990s.
There was all the difference in the world, too, between her heartfelt, text-aware Tatyana at Covent Garden and the relatively insipid heroine of the Welsh National Onegin only a few seasons before. Happily, her Tchaikovsky here hits the same best form, with long lines beautifully supported by Malcolm Martineau in the ineffable Cradle Song.
True, the colour is the same throughout – a handsome voice like this needs unflagging support – and Roocroft may not plumb the well of loneliness so singularly as an interpreter like mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina does in ‘Once again, alone’, but she brings an almost unbearable intensity to the refrains of ‘To forget so soon’.

There’s nothing wispy about her Debussy, the large-scale ambition of ‘Le balcon’ matched by the splendid scope of Richard Strauss’s ‘Befreit’ and ‘Ruhe, meine Seele’. ‘Cäcilie’ might best have been avoided as it exposes her sometimes effortful top; the recording, which otherwise loves her voice, turns the sound discreetly to the wall at such moments.

Still, despite the overall rating there are certainly some five-star performances here – and Strauss’s relatively unfamiliar ‘Glückes genug’ hints that she may make an Arabella of ideal candour and dignity. David Nice