ALBUM TITLE: Rêves d’Espagne
WORKS: Ibert: Chansons de Don Quichotte; Ravel: Don Quichotte à Dulcinée; songs by Shostakovich, Albéniz & songs arr. Dørumsgaard by Anchieta, Mena, Morales, Esteve, Granados & De la Torre
PERFORMER: Henk Neven (baritone), Hans Eijsackers (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4132
There is much here that is extremely beautiful. Henk Neven has a rich, warm voice, for the most part very easy on the ear, and his French pronunciation is fine – as it really has to be these days – while he receives splendid tonal and rhythmic support from his accompanist. In Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte he gets over to us the knight’s essential fragility, and he is sensitive to Ibert’s elegant melodic lines, which obey the instructions of Chaliapin, who sang them in Pabst’s 1933 film, to go easy on the top notes C-E. Ravel, who had been scheduled to write the songs, delayed his versions too long and the contract was cancelled. As a result, he obviously felt free to go up to high Fs, and here Neven is not always entirely happy. In particular, the cruel phrase beginning ‘bénissez ma lame’ in the second song shows signs of strain. I’m not equipped to judge his Russian pronunciation in the six Shostakovich songs, but I would have welcomed more variety of tone. The Ibert aside, I got most pleasure out of the Norwegian composer Dørumgaard’s updating of Spanish Renaissance and Baroque songs; somewhat guiltily in case any of my purist friends are reading this, but the harmonisations are very effective and Eijsackers delivers them with commendable poise and discretion.