CD Review: Decades - A Century of Song Volume 1: 1810-1820

By William Dart

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Vivat's latest release is an ambitious undertaking.
Vivat's latest release is an ambitious undertaking.

Vivat's latest project is ambitious: 10 CDs spanning 100 years of song from 1810 to 1910, decade by decade.

The first instalment presents five singers in a fascinating mix of major and less major composers - Beethoven and Schubert are separated by the likes of Fernando Sor, better known for his guitar music, and the violinist composer Giovanni Battista Viotti.

Perhaps it was the influence of lieder scholar, Susan Youens, who contributes an engrossing booklet essay, that a woman's voice is heard in a lively bolero-styled number by Sophie Gail (1775-1819).

The 32 songs chosen benefit from the rare combination of knowledge and taste that has made pianist Malcolm Martineau one of the great accompanists of our time. Throughout, his stylish playing never falters and his choice of repertoire provides the delight of hearing two Schubert celebrations of the moon, to the words of different poets, with Goethe providing the greater lyrical inspiration.

Goethe's words provide the texts for three Beethoven and 15 Schubert lieder which spring to life, exquisitely nuanced and phrased by Michael Schade. The Canadian tenor is also compelling in four substantial songs by the Czech, Vaclav Tomasek.

I was disappointed that Austrian baritone Florian Boesch was allotted only one contribution to the set and, while Spanish soprano Sylvia Schwartz catches the Latin fire of Sor, her Schubert is hard-edged after the golden-toned Schade.

Sopranos Lorna Anderson and Ann Murray have less to sing and, despite her voice betraying the passing of the years, Murray invests Viotti's artless Italian ballads with the same naturalness she brought to the folksongs of her native Ireland almost a quarter-century ago.

Decades: A Century of Song Volume 1: 1810-1820 (Vivat, through Southbound)
Rating 4/5
Verdict: An enchanted evening of song, expertly curated

- NZ Herald

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