In Recital - Sybil Michelow & Malcolm Williamson
The first London Jewish Music Festival back in 1984 resulted in a number of recordings, of which In Recital, featuring Sybil Michelow, soprano (now contralto) and the late Master of the Queen's Music, Malcolm Williamson at the piano, is one of the most noteworthy. It was released on audio cassette by B'nai B'rith Recordings in 1984, and limited quantities of this historic release are still available from Jewish Music Distribution UK (for further details please see "Purchasing Info" below), and if there is sufficient demand, this recording may also be re-issued on audio CD.
The programme of In Recital is wide-ranging and exquisitely chosen, and covers works from the late romantic period to the late 20th century, including two contributions by Williamson himself. Both Sybil Michelow and Malcolm Williamson are superb on In Recital, their expressive repertoires are exploited to the fullest throughout. Ms. Michelow, who later changed to contralto, sings with wonderful sensitivity and restraint and the perfect approach to the songs, and Williamson's piano is the perfect complement.
In Recital opens with Marc Lavry's A Love Song, with words by Ben Gavriel sung in Hebrew. Highly evocative and airy, Sybil Michelow gently floats above the light, suggestive piano of Malcolm Williamson. Three Traditional Melodies arranged by Maurice Ravel are beautifully and touchingly rendered, with Mjerke, main Suhn and Die alte Kashe sung in Yiddish while Kaddish is rendered in Hebrew. Gustav Mahler's Five Songs, sung in German, consist of Ich atmet' einen linden Duft and Liebst Du um Schoenheit, both poems by Rueckert, Hans und Grethe, and two poems by Leander, Erinnerung and Fruehlingsmorgen. The renditions are excellent, though the lyrics are impossible to follow but this is generally widespread with German Lieder and perhaps more a problem of the language than the interpreter's diction. Three Songs Without Words by Paul Ben-Haim in the composer's words are 'tone pictures of an Oriental mood'. The first two depict the merciless heat of the Judean Hills and the monotonous babbling of a story-teller, while the third is a setting of a Sephardi (or Spanish Jewish) folk tune. Ms. Michelow and Williamson excel in evoking the moods of these.
Side two opens with another song cycle by Ben-Haim, A Star Fell Down, a setting of poems by Matti Katz, with English translation by P. Vernon. One cannot help but suspect that a lot of the immense subtlety and richness of the original Hebrew must have been lost in translation, nonetheless these songs are highly evocative. David Hadda's setting of poems by Jehudith Sternberg, Exchanges of Love, is rendered tenderly. Hash-ki-ve-nu Adonai is from Malcolm Williamson's opera in one act, The Red Sea, written (with the libretto also written by the composer) around 1972-3. Sung in Hebrew, this prayer is exquisite and does stand out even on an album that is as outstanding as a whole as this. A second Williamson selection, Now Is The Singing Day, from 'The Bridal Dialogue' in Song of Songs, translated by Albert H. Friedlander, closes the superb In Recital on a grand note.
The excellent liner notes give a brief insight into the works generally in the form of extracts of the lyrics, as well as brief intros to some of the composers and (now dated) mini bios of the performers. The cover features dreamy, evocative artwork by Anthony Auerbach inspired by A Star Fell Down.
Sybil Michelow and Malcolm Williamson's In Recital is an immensely enjoyable album that stands up well nearly twenty years after its release, even with all the sins of the old audio cassette format. A re-issue on CD would be most welcome indeed. Even in the absence of this, In Recital is essential in any collection of Williamson, 20th century song, or Jewish music within a classical Western context.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
A Love Song - Marc Lavry
Three Traditional Melodies - Arr. Ravel
Mejerke, main Suhn
Die alte Kashe
Five Songs - Gustav Mahler
Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
Liebst Du um Schoenheit
Hans und Grethe
Three Songs Without Words - Paul Ben-Haim
A Star Fell Down (Kochav Nafal) - Paul Ben-Haim, Poems by Matti Katz, English Translation by P. Vernon
I can't put those thoughts into shape
The sun is setting
A Star fell down
Exchanges of Love - David Hadda, Poems by Jehudith Sternberg
a. Upon the tree of my love
b. Seek death no longer
Hash-ki-ve-nu Adonai - Malcolm Williamson, From "The Red Sea", an
opera in one act
Now Is The Singing Day - Malcolm Williamson, Translation by Albert H. Friedlander, from: The
Bridal Dialogue - Song of Songs