Pros: Nobody else does Lieder like Kasarova does. Vividly sung to the extreme
Cons: Microphone was too close. Can almost hear her lungs inflate (and she isn't even breathy)
Vesselina Kasarova: Schubert, Brahms, Schumann RCA Red Seal
‘Music is a living art,’ that’s a cliché often repeated by singers. But though many singers do try to give life to what they sing, very few actually succeed in demonstrating that motto. Lieders are conventionally sung as though they are pretty paintings that you are only allowed to admire from a distance. The more accomplished Lieder-singers paint more vivid pictures than others. But if you know anything about the Bulgarian-Swiss mezzo Vesselina Kasarova, you know that she doesn’t do anything ‘by convention.’ To listen to Kasarova is to be told a personal account of a story. One isn’t looking at paintings on the wall, one actually travels with her from one scene of each paintings to another.
Each song is treated with such a full dose of personality and intimacy that whenever I have this CD on the stereo, I feel transported into a rustic log cabin deep in the woods on a starry night. There is hardly anything as comfortable as being parked in front of a cackling fireplace after dinner, listening to a long lost cousin recounting enthusiastically of her many adventures (22 of them). For all I know she made them all up, but I couldn’t care less. It makes me feel young again to virtually relive the excitement and the youthful experience of being told fire-side tales for the first time.
This singer has the Midas touch when it comes to portraying different emotions naturally. She never sounds like she is manipulating a phrase to make you feel a certain way, but her own enthusiasm, passion, innocence (or the lack thereof), and sadness are so naturally infectious that one doesn’t even need to understand German to ‘get’ her stories.
Unlike her French, her German is cleanly pronounced without a single sloppy syllable. This exquisitely expressive voice seems made to sing in this language. It is a dark burgundy color voice that is even from top to bottom (with nearly 3 full octaves vocal range). Glowy and free on top, sensually rounded and full of texture in the middle, and a solid dark cherry wood at the bottom (she doesn’t use that smoky chest tone she often uses when singing opera). And Friedrich Haider, the amazingly sensitive pianist, is an able co-conspirator in Frau Kasarova’s feast of tale-telling. They are in perfect sync with each other both musically and interpretively and never try to out-shine the other. From the infectiously soliciting and enthusiastic Fischerweise to the raptly hypnotic Im Abendrot to the cocky Der Wanderer an der Mond to the multi-dimensional mini-drama Von Ewiger Liebe or the closing youthfulness of Aufträge, the good thing about listening to a CD instead of at a live concert is that they can grant you unlimited encores!
The album is very well arranged. It doesn’t follow a unifying theme, but is more musically oriented. There are no 3 tracks in a row of the same motif and tempo, but there is enough contrast to keep me interested without disrupting the overall flow. This CD put me in such a trance that Track 22 just sneaks up on me. Time flies when you're having fun
My only complaint is that the recording microphone was placed too close to Kasarova, and at times it is as if she's singing into your ears. It doesn't ruin the CD (I actually think it gives an even more intimate feel to the listening experience), but can be distracting to those with really sensitive ears.
Vesselina Kasarova (Mezzo soprano) & Friedrich Haid (Piano)
1. Fischerwiese, D881b (Fisherman’s Song)
2. Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D300 (The Youth at the Spring)
3. Der Wanderer an den Mond, D870 (The Wanderer to the Moon)
4. Im Abendrot D799 (In the Evening Glow)
5. Nacht und Träume, D827 (Night and Dream)
6. Romanze, D797
7. Im Frühling, D882 (In Spring)
8. Ständchen, D889 (Serenade)
9. An mein Herz, D860 (In My Heart)
10. Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774 (Song Sung Over the Water)
11. Der Frühling, Op.6 No.2 (In Spring)
12. Feldeinsamkeit, Op.86 No.2 (Solitude in the Field)
13. Lerchengesang, Op.70 No.2 (The Lark’s Song)
14. Meerfahrt, Op.96 No.4 (Sea Journey)
15. Von ewiger Liebe, Op.43 No.1 (Of Eternal Love)
16. O liebliche Wangen, Op.47 No.4 (O Sweet Cheeks)
17. Erstes Grün, Op.35 No.4 (First Green)
18. Der Nussbaum, Op.25 No.3 (The Nut Tree)
19. Sonntags am Rhein, Op.36 No.1 (Sunday by the Rhein)
20. Rose, Meer, und Sonne, Op.37 No.9 (Rose, Sea, and Sun)
21. Widmung, Op.25 No.9 (Dedication)
22. Aufträge, Op.77 No.5 (Message)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG8jjcvXNjg (#7, Schubert's Im Frühling)
1 CD. Play-time: 65:20 minutes. Sung in German. CD lining includes printed libretto in German and translated English.
Other Kasarova recordings:
Solo CDs: Mozart Arias, A Portrait, Lied-Duett (with Edita Gruberova), Love Entranced (Nuit Resplendissante): French Opera Arias, Song Cycles by Berlioz, Ravel, Chausson, The Magic of Kasarova, Bulgarian Soul, Rossini Arias & Duets, Das Bayerische Staatsoper: 1997-2005, Belle Nuit, Sento Brillar,
Opera CDs: Alcina (Munich 2005), Beatrice di Tenda (Vienna 1992), I Capuleti e i Montecchi, La clemenza di Tito (Munich 2006), Dom Sebastien (ROH 2005), La Favorite (Munich 2000), Mitridate (Salzburg 1997), Oberon, Tancredi, Werther,
Opera DVDs: Il barbiere di Siviglia (Zurich 2001), La belle Helene (Zurich 1997), Berlin Opera Night 2003, La clemenza di Tito (Salzburg 2003), La clemenza di Tito (Zurich 2005), La damnation de Faust (Salzburg 1999), Orphée et Eurydice (Munich 2005), Pique Dame (Vienna 1992 VHS), Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Zurich 2002), Der Rosenkavalier (Zurich 2004)
Live Performance: Dom Sebastian at Carnegie Hall 2006