Suzanne Danco - Opera Arias & Songs
Listening to Danco, I find a memory stirring, which, pinned down, is recognized as Shaw's annoyance with young Nellie Melba because he couldn't find anything to fault her over. His point, of course, was that here was a singer with a beautiful voice and no technical shortcomings at all; yet he wanted from her more than she was providing. The comparison must not be taken too far, but Danco resembles Melba in, for example, the cleanness of her singing: when confronted with a wide interval, she takes the note with unerring precision; when a scale passage moves from one area of the voice into another there is no perceptible barrier to pass between registers, and each note is distinct, even and perfectly linked. These qualities are evident in the very first items in the recital, the songs by Bononcini and Caccini which became such favourites when they were first issued in 1949. The sound is so fresh, the manner so gracious, that one is immediately won over to the singer.
Yet at the same time one feels that this should not be all. With Danco, here in this admirable selection of her song recordings, we go from Caccini to Bach, then via Schutz to Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Gounod, Debussy and Faure are to follow. It is a rewarding repertoire (the Melba comparison breaks off at this point), and in each part of it the singing brings its own kind of satisfaction. It never goes far beyond the point arrived at in those first records, however: freshness, efficiency, grace in high degree and nothing to fault; but then...? Well. Then: there is, for instance, a remarkably vivid unfolding of the story in Das Veilchen and Die Forelle. It is as though within such limits songs which sometimes betray blandness in their interpreters here evoke the most imaginative art in this singer. Again, within the delicate limits of Debussy's Ariettes oubliees she shows an acquaintance with regret, tenderness, gaiety. Her Gretchen (at the spinning wheel) knows something about love but not much, it seems, about loss. Her poet of the Liederkreis (Op. 39) knows affection, as in the ''Intermezzo'', but scarcely guesses at his own romanticism in ''Auf einer Burg'' or ''Zwielicht''.
Of the rest, best all-round—that is as pure singing and interpretation—is perhaps Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, marvellously clean and instrumental in execution, with everything perfectly in proportion. That is from 1956, and is hardly touched by the faint flicker of vibrato which just begins to affect the Melba-like steadiness of the earlier records. La bonne chanson, from 1952, is all beautifully firm and fresh, and like the rest of the items well recorded but for the over-subordination of the piano. It has in fact much of the Melba-like purity of Maggie Teyte: yet how one longs for a little of the Maggie Teyte portamento, or at least, just once in a way, a touch of something richer in individual character, even at the expense, if need be, of so much that cannot be faulted.'