Poulenc, Gounod, Schubert, Vaughan Williams, etc

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: etc,Gounod,Poulenc,Schubert,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Virgin
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Serenade
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: David Daniels (countertenor), Martin Katz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45400 2
Beethoven, Schubert and Gounod would doubtless have blanched at the notion of their songs being sung by that strange creature, the male falsettist. And in principle the countertenor voice, with its aura of sexual ambivalence, is all wrong for this repertoire. But if anyone can bring it off, it is the young American David Daniels. Daniels’s timbre is more vibrant and feminine than, say, that of Andreas Scholl; and more than any countertenor around today he commands the range of colour and dynamics (his loud notes ample with no trace of hootiness) and the sense of drama to make questions of voice type irrelevant. Beethoven’s ‘Adelaide’ is beautifully done, sweet-toned, pliant and confiding; and if Daniels misses something of the yearning ecstasy of Schubert’s ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’, his ‘Nacht und Traüme’, phrased in long, seamless spans, is exquisite in its purity and rapt contemplation. Here and elsewhere Martin Katz is a tactful and observant partner.


Some unidiomatic French vowels apart, Daniels is equally involving in a clutch of charming neglected Gounod settings and in three Poulenc songs, above all the incantatory ‘Priez pour paix’, sung here with moving fervour and humility. The arie antiche are a more predictable success (Gluck’s ‘O del mio dolce ardor’ done with real passion), the Purcell items, taking the countertenor on to home territory, perhaps the best of all. Daniels is as compelling in the florid, quasi-improvisatory ‘Sweeter than roses’ as in the sublime Evening Hymn, a bolder, less inward performance than the famous Fifties recording by Alfred Deller, but one worthy to be mentioned in the same breath. Richard Wigmore