Songs of the Auvergne
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
Anna Moffo, soprano
American Symphony Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski, conductor
RCA Victor, 1964, 1990
This prodigious recording, featuring superb artists and wonderful songs, it is still able to arouse the listener’s admiration for its freshness and originality, although many decades have passed from its release.
The main reason of this success is, of course, the charming performance of “La Bellissima” Anna Moffo, at that time at the height of her vocal splendour, together with the irresistible accompaniment of conductor Leopold Stokowski, but also the choice of the repertoire deserves some praise.
The album collects seven songs from Joseph Canteloube Chants d’Auvergne (“Songs of the Auvergne”) together with Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras and Sergei Rachmaninov’s famous Vocalise, a collection that does not only suit perfectly Moffo’s musicality and sweetness, but it is interesting by its own right the way in which it is offered to the listener. The songs are not out of place one after the other and present themselves as a compact group, so that the musical itinerary is conscientiously and coherently developed from the radiant L’Antouèno, proceeding through the dreamy and lovely tunes of the Chants and through the Bachianas Brasileiras to have its perfect climax and conclusion in the Vocalise.
The Vocalise alone would be enough to justify listening to the recording. It is not a mistake or an exaggeration to assert that it has in Moffo one of its best interpreters when you consider how many colours she is able to confer it, even if it seems that she is not doing anything to obtain the effect. Moffo tells an entire romantic story, complete with dreams, hopes and melancholy, thanks only to the modulation of the notes and to the abandonment to music. For its part, the discreet accompaniment realized by Stokowski is moving and the combination of the energies of singer and of conductor make the Vocalise almost unbearable to a sensitive soul.
Back to the beginning of the recording, the Chants give Moffo the opportunity to disclose her refined attention to every aspect of interpretation, with charming results in the boundless melancholy of the Pastourelle, the verve of L’aîo de rotso and the joy of Malurous qu’o uno fenno. Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras, on the other hand, offers the soprano the occasion to express more intense feelings and to add some decisive features to her performance with her strong dramatic temperament.
The miraculous conduction of Stokowski add the final touch to the perfect chef d’œuvre that this album is, completing the songs with magical and evocative effects, as in the “abstractness” of the Vocalise and in the “concreteness” of other songs, being them nostalgic as Baîléro or witty as L’aîo de rotso.