<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill A VERSATILE PERFORMER
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.