Chen Reiss: The Nightingale and the Rose
A fast-rising operatic star in Austria and Germany, Israeli soprano Chen Reiss follows her delightful CD of 18th-century arias (11/11) with a disc inspired by two archetypal romantic symbols, the nightingale and the rose. Framed by Purcell’s ‘Sweeter than roses’ and Sherwin’s ‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’, her programme spans three centuries and seven languages, taking in such rarities as Pauline Viardot’s ‘Le deux roses’, Guastavino’s melancholy ‘La rosa y el sauce’ and Meyerbeer’s suavely beguiling ‘Die Rosenblätter’. While rapt or sorrowful reverie predominates, the mix is leavened by a clutch of humorous numbers, including Mahler’s folksy nonsense song ‘Ablösung im Sommer’.
Chen Reiss fields a supple, vernal lyric-coloratura that soars without strain or hardness into the stratosphere. Discerningly partnered by Charles Spencer, she can spin a pure legato and always phrases musically, with rubato growing naturally from the curve of the line and the flux of the harmony. The florid melismas and high tessitura of Krenek’s ‘Die Nachtigall’ – in an idiom that suggests a chromatically over-ripe Richard Strauss – and the tricky, vaulting leaps of the Berg song are negotiated with effortless grace.
If her German consonants could be sharper, here and elsewhere, Reiss delivers a nicely timed and pointed ‘Heidenröslein’ and ‘Ablösung im Sommer’, and soars with echt Straussian radiance in the romanticised rococo of ‘Das Rosenband’. Her French likewise tends to be too soft-grained, though she catches the mingled innocence and perfumed languor of Hahn’s ‘Le rossignol des lilas’ and Fauré’s exquisite ‘Les roses d’Ispahan’. ‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’ is sweetly sung but a bit careful and ladylike, not quite idiomatic. While some numbers, not least Brahms’s ‘An die Nachtigall’ and Schumann’s darkly luxuriant ‘Meine Rose’, could benefit from more specific characterisation and tonal variety, this is a more-than-promising recital from a soprano whose vocal ease and allure make her an artist to watch.