Kathleen Battle & Jean-Pierre Rampal in Concert

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Kathleen Battle & Jean-Pierre Rampal in Concert

  • Pensieri notturni di Filli, 'Nel dolce dell'oblio'
  • (L')Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato, Come, rather, Goddess
  • If music be the food of love
  • What can we poor females do
  • Oedipus, Music for a while (song)
  • Hippolyte et Aricie, Rossignols amoureux
  • (Une) Flûte invisible
  • (2) Poèmes de Ronsard
  • Canciones clásicas españolas, Al amor
  • Canciones clásicas españolas, Del cabello más sutil
  • Canciones clásicas españolas, La mi sola Laureola
  • Chiquitita la novia
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano
  • Bird-song
  • Lo, here the gentle lark

'With flute obbligato': it used to be a regular feature of concerts and recordings by the great madames of old. If their programmes had been as enterprising as this one, they would not have provoked so readily, if unwittingly, the odious term 'canary-fancier'. Yet at the same time they would have needed some greater variety of tone, something in addition to the perpetual sweetness of expression than we hear in Kathleen Battle. The bell-like purity of her voice is delightful in itself, and satisfies up to a point; but that is reached, I would say, by the end of two or three songs. Her fluency and evenness, her free production of perfectly steady tone, are all admirable and none too common in the world today (but then, she is generally acknowledged to be one of the leading singers in that world). She is also highly skilled in making effective use of her naturally limited power, as, for instance, when she fills out the tone towards the end of ''Sweet Bird'' or repeats the words ''can you be'' in ''There's not a swain''. The enervated droop of some high sopranos is not for her, and she can turn from mere pleasantness to gaiety, as in some of the Spanish songs. But generally, the emotional or expressive range is small, the beauty essentially that of an exceptional prettiness.
Among the songs, Roussel's settings of Ronsard for voice and flute without accompaniment make a strong impression: fine two-part writing and perfect for the occasion. Several others are remarkably happy 'finds', including the Bird-song of Michael Head. But musical interest centres on Martinu's Flute Sonata, a marvellous work and not presently available in the catalogues otherwise. Written in a week at Cape Cod in 1945, it has inexhaustible vitality: apparently simple (but never commonplace), and sometimes dazzlingly intricate and diverse in form and reference. I was wondering whether this, and its superb performance by Jean-Pierre Rampal and John Steele Ritter, would elicit the same fortissimo bravos that break in even at the most exquisite pianissimo ending of the songs. And indeed it does, which I suppose must be to the audience's credit; but when such extremes of rapture greet everything in the programme one tends to find that as they increase in noise they diminish in credibility.'

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