Classical Reissue Reviews

“Lorraine” = BACH: Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo/ Allan Vogel, oboe d’amore; Los Angeles Ch. Orch./ Jeffrey Kahane – Yarlung Records

More Lieberson—and worth every moment.

Published on May 18, 2013

“Lorraine” = BACH: Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo/ Allan Vogel, oboe d’amore; Los Angeles Ch. Orch./ Jeffrey Kahane – Yarlung Records

“Lorraine” = BACH: Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199; Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, BWV 1049 – Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano/ Allan Vogel, oboe d’amore; Los Angeles Ch. Orch./ Jeffrey Kahane – Yarlung Records 96298, 42:05 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

On goes the mining for riches of the Hunt Lieberson legacy. She did not leave behind a lot of recordings, and so many live albums are now surfacing, and I am sure this one will not be the last. That’s not a bad thing as she was a comparative rarity among contemporary artists—someone who was exceptionally private and never sought the spotlight. However, the notes by Bob Attiyeh tell us something that I never knew before. She was unyielding in her preparation for rehearsal, everyone knows this; “…if you were not fully prepared yourself, or if one of the musicians lost focus, she would quietly withdraw into herself, continuing the rehearsal without complaint, but no longer engaged. It was scary when this happened…because it would be difficult to earn back her trust. She demanded perfection in herself and in everyone around her.” I don’t know about anyone else, but this sounds an awful lot like the behavior of a Diva, and comes as a surprise to me. But in the end it only humanizes her and removes a little of the mystique of some musical gift from God completely self-effacing sent to edify mankind. She loved music and wanted to it sound good, and was aware of her role in it.

And what a role she had—her voice, bold and robust most of the time was singing on levels both in volume and subtlety far below capabilities. It must have taken a great deal of control to affix her instrument to the blatant and far-reaching confines of delicacy that many of her roles required. She was attuned to the words like no other of her generation, and voice, understanding, and proper emotion were critical to her. Whenever you hear her sing you can be sure of one thing—she has plowed the material for every ounce of meaning, and if you can’t hear it then it simply isn’t there.

This cantata, My heart swims in blood, is desperately effective, the words themselves incredibly introspective and most likely personal for the mezzo who was facing her creator soon herself. Her inflections in each line are so perfectly suited to the music that one can hardly consider hearing it any other way. Allan Vogel’s incredible artistry only adds to this effect. This was from 2003. As disc filler we are given a barn-burning Brandy 4 at the beginning, also exciting and expertly played, but hiding the angst and drama which will follow.

Yarlung’s remastering is excellent, clear and vibrant, and a little on the “live” side.

—Steven Ritter




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