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The Britten cycle The Holy Sonnets of John Donne was frankly disappointing. These are songs written for Peter Pears and whilst other tenors have recorded them, it is difficult to get away from his influence and his voice type. Pears was notable for his elegant sense of line and for his extreme care and nuanced way with words. Unfortunately these are qualities that Cohen-Licht's performance lacks; she brings to the work a fine dramatic commitment but her diction is sorely occluded. The Gramophone catalogue only seems to include the tenor version of the cycle, so I did wonder how the composer would have viewed a soprano singing these songs [listen -- track 13, 0:00-1:12].

For the final cycle on the disc, Montsalvatge's Cinco Cançiones Negras ('Five Black Songs'), the atmosphere suddenly changes and the soprano seems to finally relax. Here are warm, Mediterranean songs which suit the sultry qualities in Cohen-Licht's voice [listen -- track 19, 0:17-1:27]. Montsalvatge's eclectic work was written in 1945 and makes use of various styles such as cabaret, jazz and flamenco. Whilst Cohen-Licht's performance was not an unalloyed delight, the cycle plays to her strengths and her performance transcends the limitations that the recording seems to have placed on her voice.

Many young singers venture into unknown repertoire for discs in the hope that this will get them noticed. This pre-supposes that they are fully in sympathy with their repertoire. On this disc Cohen-Licht has shown herself a versatile performer -- perhaps too versatile -- and it is only in the last cycle that we feel she is really at home with her material. But the way the recording has captured her voice comes into play here; I feel that this CD does not do Cohen-Licht's voice justice and hope that we can hear her again soon on a more sympathetically recorded disc.

Copyright © 31 July 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


Emotional Turbulence - Song Recital

CDE 84517 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE 57'06" 2004 Meridian Records

Daphna Cohen-licht, soprano; Tamir Chasson, piano

Richard Strauss (1864-1949): Five Songs Op 15 (1884-1886) (Madrigal (Michelangelo); Winternacht (A F von Schack); Lob des Leidens (A F von Schack); Aus den Leidern der Trauer (A F von Schack); Heimkehr (A F von Schack)); Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Song-cycle Op 2 (1899) (Erwartung (Richard Dehmel); Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm (Jesus bettelt) (Richard Dehmel); Erhebung (Richard Dehmel); Waldsonne (Johannes Schlaf)); Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): The Holy Sonnets of John Donne Op 34 (1945) (Oh my black Soule!; Batter my Heart; O might those sighs and tears; Oh, to vex me; What if this present; Since she whom I loved; At the round earth's imagined comers; Thou hast made me; Death, be not proud); Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002): Cinco Cançiones Negras (Five Black Songs) (1945) (Cuba dentro de un piano (Rafael Alberti); Punto de Habanera (Néstor Luján); Chévere (Nicolás Guillén); Cançión de cuna para dormir a un negrito (Ildefonso Pereda Valdés); Canto Negro (Nicolás Guillén)


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