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The Exquisite HourSarah Connolly
Following Sarah Connolly's series of title roles at English National Opera, Glyndebourne and New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2005, this live recital was recorded at St. John's, Smith Square, London, having been premiered at Carnegie Hall earlier in the year.
Accompanied by Eugene Asti, Sarah Connolly sings songs by Haydn, Brahms, Hahn, Korngold and Weill. Her distinctive, intelligent, warm, bright-sounding mezzo-soprano will be enjoyed by her growing 'army' of fans in this rich, romantic repertoire.
2006 sees Sarah Connolly appearing across the UK, and among her many overseas engagements lies a jewel in the crown - the title role in Dido at La Scala.
What people are saying
|"hugely impressive disc, testifying to the versatility and range of a singer who has already drawn comparisons with Janet Baker"
| "one of our most refined mezzos"
| "exquisitely articulated and accompanied"
BBC Music Magazine
| "A national treasure"
The Evening Standard
| "Connolly's lovely singing reaches to the sensuous core"
The Daily Telegraph
| "this classy recital"
with Eugene Asti
Release date: 1st Feb 2006
Order code: SIGCD072
|1.||Arianna a Naxos||Franz Joseph Haydn||[19.09]|
|3.||Da unten im Tale||Johannes Brahms||[1.48]|
|6.||Alte Liebe||Johannes Brahms||[3.00]|
|7.||Die Mainacht||Johannes Brahms||[3.31]|
|8.||Von ewiger Liebe||Johannes Brahms||[4.43]|
|9.||À Chloris||Reynaldo Hahn||[2.59]|
|11.||Trois jours de vendange||Reynaldo Hahn||[3.12]|
|12.||L'Heure exquise||Reynaldo Hahn||[2.30]|
|13.||Quand je fus pris au pavillon||Reynaldo Hahn||[1.21]|
|14.||Glückwunsch||Erich Wolfgang Korngold||[2.34]|
|15.||Alt-Spanisch||Erich Wolfgang Korngold||[1.24]|
|16.||Sterbelied||Erich Wolfgang Korngold||[3.46]|
|17.||Gefasster abschied||Erich Wolfgang Korngold||[3.22]|
|18.||Lost in the stars||Kurt Weill||[2.50]|
|19.||Speak low||Kurt Weill||[2.29]|
|20.||Her song||John Ireland||[2.57]|
|21.||Tit for Tat||Benjamin Britten||[2.05]|
The Guardian, Friday February 10, 2006
Sarah Connolly recorded her latest album live in front of a hugely enthusiastic audience at St John's Smith Square in London last October. It's a hugely impressive disc, testifying to the versatility and range of a singer who has already drawn comparisons with Janet Baker.
The high points include some wonderfully rapt Brahms - particularly Die Mainacht, in which time seems to stand still - and a very erotic group by Reynaldo Hahn. Connolly sounds gorgeous in Korngold, too, though he wrote better songs than those included here. Less successful, perhaps, are Haydn's Arianna a Naxos, the opening item in the concert, where you sometimes feel her voice isn't quite sufficiently warmed up, and a couple of Kurt Weill's Broadway songs, where she occasionally sounds a bit too refined.
Songs by Britten and Ireland form the encores. Eugene Asti is her sensitive, technically assured accompanist.
The Observer, 12 February 2005
Fresh from her recent triumphs at Glyndebourne , ENO and New York's Metropolitan Opera, one of our most refined mezzos gives us an eclectic recital recorded live at St John's, Smith Square. From Haydn and Brahms to Korngold and Reynaldo Hahn, Connolly's innate musicianship combines with her warm, lustrous tone and immaculate diction to offer new insights into familiar works and a few welcome discoveries. Connolly's meticulous attention to detail also adds new lustre to songs by Kurt Weill, John Ireland and Benjamin Britten which complete a programme as revelatory as it is enchanting.
BBC Music Magazine, March 2006
Sarah Connolly presents not only an exqusite hour but a full 75 minutes of French and German song, exquisitely articulated and accompanied. Connolly woos her audience with the calling-card for any and every mezzo: Haydn's Arianna a Naxos. And every second of its nervous and emotional life - its hopes, fears and final despair - are uncovered in Connolly's superbly observant voice and imagination. For Brahms, Connolly and Eugene Asti capture both the tenderly elusive ardour of the folksong, and the finely nuanced legato of those shadowy songs which hover between dream and waking reality. Here, Connolly holds back the words, weighing and weighting them to free the fierce inner passion of a song like 'Von ewiger Liebe'. Her exquisite hour is Verlaine's and Reyanldo Hahn's - and Connolly responds tellingly to this composer's uniquesly sweet-scented archaism.
Korngold and Weill receive a delicious sprinkling of stardust as both singer and pianist relax into cabaret mode, and every word is cherished and most poignantly projected. Connolly concludes her recital with two delightfully unpredictable encores by Ireland and Britten. Her final Tit for Tat becomes a heartfelt and dark questioning of what is, and what is not, true sportsmanship.
The Evening Standard, 10 February 2006
A national treasure for a good many years, this recital bears witness to Connolly's mastery of a number of strands of the mezzo repertoire, all delectably sung [and] well chosen to display the ripe bloom of Connolly's voice.
The Telegraph, 22 January 2006
This recital displays several aspects of the mezzo's artistry, from a noble account of Haydn's Arianna a Naxos to two songs from Weill's One Touch of Venus. In between come seven Brahms lieder, including a radiant 'Von ewiger Liebe'; five songs by Hahn (L'heure exquise is alone worth the price of the disc) and four by Korngold in which Connolly's lovely singing reaches to the sensuous core.
Sunday Telegraph - 22nd January 2006
Recorded live at St. John’s, Smith Square. this recital displays several aspects of the mezzo’s artistry, from a noble account of Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos to two songs from Weill’s One Touch of Venue. In between come seven Brahms leider, including a radiant ‘Von ewiger Liebe’, five songs by Hahn (L’heure exquise’ is alone worth the price of the disc) and four by Korngold in which Connolly’s lovely singing reaches to their sensuous core. The excellent pianist is Eugene Asti, always sensitive and supportive.
The Times, 04 February 2006 ****
Connolly makes full use of her considerable dynamic range throughout this classy recital, recorded live at St John's, Smith Square, London, October. Her atmospheric mezzo is well suited to heartache, and her subtle lamentations and cries of anguish clearly define the stricken heroine in Haydn's cantata Ariadne.
The ensuing seven songs by Brahms are beautifully paced - with her Feldeinsamkeit of particular note, along with the wistful Du unten im Tale and the tender Die Mainacht. The poignant pieces by Reynaldo Hahn and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are also sensitively sung, with Eugene Asti's piano devoting particular attention to their restive harmonies.
Classic FM - April 2006 ***
Sarah Connolly’s programme ranges from Haydn to Brahms, Hahn to Korngold, Weill to Britten. The purity of her phrasing and an emotional commitment that is always controlled but utterly sincere are just two of the elements that make this a very rewarding recital, recorded live at St John’s, Smith Square, London.
MusicWeb March 2006
In this live recital Sarah Connolly and her partner, Eugene Asti, give us a beautifully laid-out programme. It's quite clear that a good deal of thought has gone into the choice and ordering of the music and so it makes sense to comment on the performances in the order in which they're given.
The Haydn cantata with which they begin is an interesting piece, not least because over half of its length is given over to two substantial recitatives, the second of which is particularly dramatic. Miss Connolly shows her operatic instincts and experience in this performance, projecting both recitatives strongly. In the first aria, marked Largo, she puts over the longing in the music most successfully and in the second aria, a larghetto, she sings with deep feeling. Eugene Asti's accompaniment is delightfully pointed. This is a very successful opening item. Next comes a group of songs by Brahms. Without exception these are well done. The only slight criticism I'd have is that perhaps the choice of songs is insufficiently varied. Only 'Ständchen', with which the selection begins, is really in a lively tempo. That said, there's abundant life in Miss Connolly's singing of all these lovely songs. She spins a delectable long line in 'Nachtwandler' and is beautifully poised in her reading of 'Die Mainacht'. Best of all, perhaps, is 'Von ewiger Liebe'. This is a great song and she gives a superbly committed and involving account of it. I suspect that on the night the interval came next in order to provide a natural break between the music of Brahms and Hahn. The more I hear of Reynaldo Hahn's songs the more I like them. He may not attain the levels of accomplishment of Fauré or Poulenc but his music has consistent charm and regularly gives pleasure. Miss Connolly's begins with 'À Chloris'. What a lovely song this is! Here singer and pianist capture the grave Bachian beauty of the piece and its elegance too. In 'L'Énamourée', which follows, we hear Sarah Connolly's gorgeously rich voice to full advantage but then there's a lovely light touch evident in her singing of 'Trois jours de vendange' and a winning gaiety to 'Quand je fus pris au pavillon'. Of course, 'L'Heure exquise' is the song that has given this CD its title. All that need be said is that the song does indeed sound exquisite. A group of songs by Korngold makes a most enterprising choice. I'd come across the two songs from Op. 14 before: they're included in Anne Sofie von Otter's DG collection, 'Rendezvous with Korngold'. However, the other two items were new to me. All four offerings have a fine melodic inspiration and there is often more than a touch of nostalgia too. This latter trait is particularly evident in 'Sterbelied', which gets a wonderful performance. Worthy of passing note is the repeated reference to a little motif from the finale of Mahler's Fourth Symphony that is contained in the piano part for 'Gefasster Abschied'. To end the "official" programme Sarah Connolly treats us to two songs from Broadway shows by Weill. These are show songs of the very highest order. I suspect Miss Connolly loves them because she gives irresistible readings of both. To finish she gives us two English encores. Both are done with much character, especially the Britten number.
I'm usually a bit wary of the "puffs" contained in artist's biographies. However, on this occasion one caught my eye. A writer in the New York Times described Miss Connolly's voice as "dark and true, remarkably flexible and filled with the required heat." On the evidence of this recital I'd say that verdict is right on the money. Furthermore this programme shows her to be a wide-ranging and imaginative artist, equally capable of doing justice to Haydn and to Broadway. She sings in three foreign languages and, so far as I could tell, her pronunciation in all three tongues is impeccable - as is her diction in whatever language she chooses to sing. There seems to be a palpable sense of communication with her audience, fully vindicating her decision to record this recital live rather than in the studio. There are useful, succinct notes. The sung texts are provided together with an English translation where appropriate. My only complaint - and it's quite a serious one - is that the typeface is so small that I had great trouble reading the booklet. The recorded sound is very good. I thought the balance between singer and piano was fine throughout, which is pleasing since Eugene Asti's excellent playing is a vital component of the success of this recital. This is a gem of a disc. Strictly speaking the CD's title is, of course, somewhat inaccurate because we get a good deal more than one hour of Miss Connolly's singing. However, that's an "inaccuracy" that I'm very happy to forgive and there's no inaccuracy in describing the recital as exquisite. I enjoyed this disc immensely and I know I will return to it in the future with great pleasure.
Time Out March 15–22 2006
The tall, elegant opera singer speaks. ‘My interest’s in the music. I don’t give a rat’s arse for the rest of it.’ Sarah Connolly chuckles. ‘I can’t be bothered with publicity. I’ll never get a Classical Brit Award.
She’s possibly the most successful singer to be ignored by Covent Garden (it’s a wide field). She’s sung opera in Paris, Florence and Munich. Her New York opera debut was described as ‘phenomenal’. Her portrayal of Handel’s Julius Caesar for Glyndebourne had critics and public raving. La Scala’s next, with Purcell’s Dido, another chapter in the new Milan-Britain love affair. There’s even talk of Sir Harrison Birtwistle wanting her for his new ‘Minotaur ‘ at – the Royal Opera. ‘I’m thrilled and flattered,’ she says , adding drily, ‘Covent Garden finally acknowledges that I exist.’
It’s at the Coliseum that Connolly’s artistry blossomed. Covent Garden’s dozy panjandrums ‘don’t really come to ENO’, she shrugs; but even it was jolted into attending ‘La Clemenza di Tito’ production that won her an Olivier nomination.
But it’s the music that counts. The mezzo’s as happy in intimate recital as on the world’s great stages. ‘It’s a medium I adore. It’s a wonderful way to miniaturise great things you have to say.’ Her new CD for Signum recalls a live recital at St John’s running a dazzling gamut of styles. ‘It evolved from my desire to do some of my favourite music, from Haydn’s astonishing “Arianna” [a virtual one-woman opera] to Kurt Weill – I used to do a lot of jazz and I had to be careful not to turn Weill into jazz...I’d love to do “The Seven Deadly Sins”.’
The CD takes its title, ‘The Exquisite Hour’, from a song by Reynaldo Hahn, Jewish-South American millionaire dilettante boyfriend of Proust, with a small but beautifully formed talent. Brahms and Korngold represent the Romantic big guns, Ireland and Britten fly the flag. No surprise at her wide ranging plans: a Tavener world premiere, Mahler with the Concertgebouw, Handel everywhere (“Agrippina” at ENO – when I learn that God only knows’). The world’s her oyster; she envies countries with entrenched cultural values, which leads to the inevitable judgement: ‘Tony Blair? He’s a moron.’ An artist and a critic in one.
The Guardian, August 2006
Although Sarah Connolly and I haven't worked together all that much, I have made it my business to know and watch her for some time. She's an incredibly important artist, very much in the Janet Baker line of great British mezzos. Her sound has a most individual timbre, unlike anyone else's. I find it very beautiful. But it's powered by her intelligence and imagination, which means that her music-making is particularly characterful. She is an instinctive musician with a natural intensity which she brings to a wide repertoire, from Berlioz to Baroque music. This is a wonderful time for her, as she reaches her maturity. All the work that she's done until recently was preparation for the glorious sounds that she is now able to produce. With that potential, there's no knowing to what heights she can aspire.