Simple Gifts Lesley Garrett
The true test of a recital disc's success is whether you would like to hear the singer in the complete work from which an aria has been abstracted. Garrett, a singer I have always admired for her direct and unaffected honesty of purpose, passes it in almost every case. Unlike her younger contemporary, Amanda Roocroft, dressed (so to speak) by EMI in her recent recital in more pretentious clothes (10/94), Garrett differentiates between every character she attempts to portray by means of vocal colouring and, above all, through clear and meaningful diction. Nor, apart from one or two moments of vocal licence (the final line of the Adriana Lecouvreur solo, for instance) that I am willing to forgive, does she exaggerate anything.
Manon's solo is deeply felt but the little song doesn't become emotionally overbearing. Charming Adriana sings with the right simper and false modesty in the tone. Juliette rejoices in bright, clear-eyed tones. Although this Sadko's Russian seems suspect, she certainly sounds sincere and the line is perfectly held. Solveig is rightly pure and distant. Yum-Yum, a part Garrett has made very much her own at English National Opera, sings in simple, plangent accents, Giuditta with abandoned elan (this number is oddly sung in English while everything else, Solveig apart, is in the original). Even Butterfly, a part probably outside the diva's range in the opera house, sounds really vulnerable and ingenuous.
The Boyce and Bach items are nicely buoyant, every detail in place and naturally projected, likewise the Auvergne songs. Finally we get a quasi-Handelian setting (Paul Bateman) for Simple Gifts. Peter Robinson and the RPO enter this, as into every item, with the right idiom imbibed. A natural recording completes pleasure in a recital which would grace any label. My only complaint concerns the unmusical order of items, but that can be corrected by judicious programming.'