Kathleen Battle & Jean-Pierre Rampal in Concert
'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