ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Portrait of an Artist
WORKS: Songs & arias
PERFORMER: Helen Lawrence (soprano), Julian Rolton (piano); National PO/Robin Stapleton
CATALOGUE NO: 1-2RF5 ADD
Over 20 years separate Helen Lawrence the under-rated prima donna in big operatic set-pieces and Helen Lawrence the mezzo of Russian extraction in Pushkin-based songs. The first disc offers virtues absent from many a singer on the international scene: well-judged tone colour, clear projection of text and meaning backed up by a warm middle register and incisive chest voice.
Lawrence’s Abigaille is more the parody-tigress, complete with the occasional wild intonation, than her well-phrased but overly polite Fiordiligi; best are the affectingly projected artistic credos of Puccini’s and Cilea’s leading ladies. Essential, though, is the Russian song recital. Lawrence’s gift for dramatic narrative sustains the gloom of Grechaninov’s ‘The Prisoner’ and evokes shades of Galina Vishnevskaya for Shostakovich’s ‘In the Depths of the Siberian Mines’. Her excellent pianist, Julian Rolton, manages the fiendishly elaborate piano-writing of the Medtner songs effortlessly in a grand finale. Presentation and sound are as clear and direct as the singer’s delivery throughout. David Nice