Isabel Bayrakdarian (soprano), Serouj Kradjian (piano)
(Analekta AN 2 9903)
'She is truly the daughter of kings, descended from the gods,' wrote a Berlin critic of Pauline Viardot-Garcia, who was in fact the daughter of the Spanish singer-teacher famed as Rossini's first Figaro, Manuel Garcia. Like her sister, Maria Malibran, Viardot was blessed with a fine soprano voice said to stretch three and a half octaves; but she was also a prolific composer of songs, as this charming collection demonstrates. Friend of George Sand, muse of Turgenev, Viardot-Garcia has the most eloquent of advocates in the Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, who lavishes great care and affection on these light but beguiling works.
Melvyn Tan (piano)
(Deux-Elles DXL 1092) (2 CDs)
After years in the self-imposed wilderness of the fortepiano, playing music written over little more than eight decades, the prodigiously gifted Melvyn Tan has recently returned in style to the modern piano, and so to the recording studio. This decorous romp through the two books of Debussy's Preludes show just how much the French romantic opened up and expanded the genre pioneered by Bach and perfected by Chopin: sultry, meditative, at times bluesy, these are richly atmospheric pieces played with perfect touch, taste and attention to detail by an artist who has audibly benefited from his long musical journey.
Peter Mattei (Peer Gynt), Camilla Tilling (Solveig), Charlotte Hellekant (Anitra); Estonian National Male Choir and Symphony Orchestra/Järvi
(Virgin 545 7222)
Grieg was in his early twenties when he met his fellow Norwegian Ibsen in Rome in 1866, to discuss the incidental music to his play Peer Gynt, which has subsequently become so well-known. This is the full version, based on a score published as recently as 1987. The American-Estonian conductor Paarvo Järvi has chosen an all-Swedish cast, and a fine one: the baritone Peter Mattei in the title role, with the soprano Camilla Tilling as Solveig and the mezzo Charlotte Hellekant as Anitra. With the Ellerhein Girls' Choir and Järvi's mighty Estonian forces, this is a revelation all fans of the incidental music will savour.