with Dalton Baldwin, piano
I cannot describe Arleen Auger’s Love Songs in any other way than “a lovely album”. It is a collection of twenty-four songs in many languages (Italian, French, English Spanish and German), written by many composers from various eras: I remember in particular Richard Strauss (Standchen, Das Rosenband), Pietro Cimara (Stornello), Roger Quilter (Music, When Soft Voices Die and Love Philosophy) Robert Schumann (Widmung), Gustav Mahler (Liebst du um Schonheit), Joaquin Turina (Cantares) Noel Coward (I’ll Follow My Secret Heart), Franz Schubert (Liebe Schwarmt auf allen Wegen), Benjamin Britten (The Salley Gardens) and Aaron Copland (Pastorale and Heart, We Will Forget Him).
The variety is apparent, since Love Song is an album dedicated to soft and sweet melodies, now joyful, now sad, but homogeneous in character. What is really astonishing is that the songs are perfectly appropriate for Auger’s voice – virtually without no exception. I do not know if there is another album where both repertoire and theme suit a singer so well, but it is indeed one of the best examples of it. Auger possesses all the colours and grace to be charming and it is easy to appreciate her kind, graceful nature, which can be romantic without being mawkish.
This is the best feature of Love Songs: with another, less discerning singer, this album could have been an infinite succession of out-of-fashion affectation, without anything worth listening to. The songs as Auger sings them are instead full of life and feelings and the singer is so clever to create a peculiar feature for each of them: for example, she sings Mahler’s Lebst fu um Schonheit as a sigh, or she accentuates the brilliance and wit of Roger Quilter’s Love Philosophy, or Gounod’s Serenade sounds like a lullaby. There is no need to distinguish Turina’s Cantares, which is the only vivacious piece and has a typically Spanish sound.
Love Songs is indeed a great achievement of this wonderful performer.