MEYERBEER Songs Vol 2
Released some five years after the first volume, this second Naxos disc of Meyerbeer songs presents settings of poetry in three different languages. Four are premiere recordings, others are better known, including some already featured on mixed recitals from Thomas Hampson (EMI/Warner, 4/92) and Anne Sofie von Otter (Archiv, 9/01).
The songs themselves don’t offer any surprises to anyone familiar with the composer, occupying a middle ground somewhere between Schubert’s Lieder and Rossini’s later salon songs. As with the operas, the accompaniments are often more interesting and inventive than the vocal parts – listen for the sparkling writing in the delightful ‘La fille de l’air’, or the strumming in the Seidl ‘Ständchen’.
There’s an impressive sweep to the distinctly Schubertian ‘Le poète mourant’ and there’s plenty of charm elsewhere. Meyerbeer generally does everything right; at the same time, though, he doesn’t really do anything terribly memorable – depths remain largely unplumbed. ‘Hirtenlied’ inevitably feels like a poor man’s ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ (and Naxos’s text – online only – is of a different poem to that which Meyerbeer actually set). The engaging ‘Près de toi’ features an eloquent cello obbligato. ‘Soave istante’, one of the premieres, could, like a handful of songs on the disc, make an effective encore.
But the composer’s cause is not helped here by the performances. Sivan Rotem’s tremulous, curdled soprano gives little pleasure, and her French and German are really not acceptable. Jonathan Zak’s piano playing is decent and often sprightly; the instrumental contributions are fine.
Strictly one for Meyerbeer completists, I’d say. Anyone else should turn first to Hampson and von Otter: they show what can be made of this repertoire.