|Paris in November. Photo via Buttered Bread.|
I could go on for ages about Anne Sofie von Otter's gifts as a singer of art song (as, indeed, I have in the past.) In contrast to her obscenely lush Les nuits d'été, her voice here is clearly that of a mortal being. And Von Otter sings with great vulnerability, employing a conversational style unusual to the art songs, and illuminating. At this point in her career, it could go without saying that Von Otter has an inspired gift for phrasing, and impeccable attention to text, but these are qualities which give constantly new delights, so I'm mentioning them anyway. Her treatment of the Hahn songs on the disc is playful and sensual, with "Le plus beau présent" and "Quand je fus pris au pavilion" as highlights. She is well-partnered by her pianists, with Richard Strauss allusions in the instrumental part in "Puisque j'ai mis ma lèvre" (at least, I think the allusion is to "Cäcilie," if it's not to something more obvious that I've missed.) A refreshingly unhistrionic take on Saint-Saens' "Si vous n'avez à me dire" was poignant. The impressionists were also well represented, with Ravel's "D'Anne jouant de l'espinette" and "Ballade de la reine morte d'aimer," and Debussy's gorgeous Trois chansons de bilitis. The name of composer Charles Martin Loeffler was new to me; Von Otter gave two passionate, winsome selections from his "Four poems for voice, viola, and piano."