A happy expectancy attends Elly Ameling's programmes, in which nothing is predictable except enjoyment. Here she ranges more widely over countries and languages than over periods and styles. The nineteenth century is our homebase, with a few amiable and not very characteristic contributions from the twentieth and a single excursion to the first Elizabethan age. Most is peaceful, as befits the hour of the serenade, and all is tuneful. These are, if you like, the plums, almost the sugar-plums, of a normal concert programme; several of them would be right for encore-time, and you might think that such things are better when they have been 'worked for' and don't fall into your lap quite so readily. There may be something in that; on the other hand, I have to admit that the thought never crossed my mind while actually listening to the record.
The voice itself is still beautiful. Just occasionally a note 'beats', as in the climax of Hahn's La vie est belle. The hyaline purity remains unflawed, however, and the freedom and evenness throughout the whole range are seemingly undiminished. The high, dreamy coda to Tosti's Serenata is irresistible, while the second of the Spanish songs, El vito, discovers some strong, idiomatic, chesty low-notes. She is the mistress of phrasing-over: Du bist wie eine Blume and Quilter's Weep you no more, sad fountains contain lovely examples. She will lull you gently as in the Ninna nanna or the magical pianissimo last verse of Del cabello mas sutil; and nobody can wake you up with a more refreshing sparkle in the voice and style than she does in her