Gluck – Armide
The scene for Hate in Act 3 is a magnificent oppor tunity for a dramatic mezzo which, as in the theatre, is seized avidly by Linda Finnie, a singer unac countably neglected by our major opera companies.
Respighi – Il Tramonto
what caps this collection as the Respighi Record of the Year is the inclusion of il tramonto, an ecstatic and very beautiful setting of Shelley. The poem concerns two lovers, who at sunset together know the unreserve of mingled being and when the faint stars were gathering overhead’ look forward to enjoying the sunrise together, “but when the morning came the lady found her lover dead and cold. The soloist here is Linda Finnie who gives a radiantly lovely performance, and I can pay her no higher tribute than say that her singing reminds me of the young Tebaldi in her early Decca recordings of Puccini.
Mahler – Das Klagende Lied
of the soloists (a rather uneven team, as it turns out), Linda Finnie is perhaps the most commanding and characterful: note the way she colours her tone for that crucial episode in “Der Spielmann’ (beginning at 12’16”) where the flute embodies the voice of the younger murdered brother.
Elgar – The Light of Life
Only Linda Finnie comes up trumps her Narrator is certainly the most memorable assumption of the four.
Korngold – Abschiedlieder
Though there is much that is operatic here, musically they fall more within the gravitational orbit of Mahler than the opulent excess of his operas. Linda Finnie gives rapt and majestic performances of con siderable insight and conviction, and this is particu larly so in the wonderful Mand, so gefest du wieder auf -Kompold’s meltingly gorgeous love song to his fiancee, Luzi von Sonnenthal
Elgar – Sea Pictures
As is the case with any mezzo today, Linda Finnue has to face the memory and challenge of Dame Ja net Baker’s famous EMI interpretation. She passes the test easily, providing in the early songs and in “Where corals lie” just the right colouring of words, intelligent use of vibrato and keenness of articulation. Then in the climaxes of the third and the final song, her opera-sized tone easily rides over the or chestra, giving them just the element of intense thrill they deserve to have. Her voice, more contral to in timbre than Dame Janet’s, is more old fashioned in the sense that it is probably closer to singers of Elgar’s own day. Thus her performance is complementary to, and not overshadowed by, her predecessor’s classic reading.
Songs of the British Isles
Linda Finnie won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award in 1974 and the Ferrier Prize at s’Hertogen bosch in 1977, so this programme, delightful in itself, comes gracefully, and I presume gratefully, as an affectionate tribute. Drawn from a well remembered part of Ferrier’s repertoire, the songs often bear the impress of her voice and radiance even to this day, and it is probable that in several of them (Now sleeps the crimson petal is an example) the living singer will have had the recorded voice of her great original in mind. It is always a path that needs careful treading: too close an adherence will be seen as slavish, while an entirely independent approach may appear presumptuous. Linda Finnie avoids both of these pitfalls and sings as one who walks naturally in the Ferrier tradition, bringing her own considerable gifts and imposing no alien touch
However, what should make the dedicated Strauss ian rush out to buy this disc is the inclusion of the Notturne of 1899, the first of the songs with orches tral accompanimemt which comprises Op. 44. Song is hardly the word, for it lasts 18 and a half minutes and could more accurately be described as a scena. The ultra-romantic text, by Richard Dehmel, tells of the poet’s vision of Death as a friend who plays, on the violin, a song “so ardent and full, like life on fire for love”.
This is Strauss’s Erwartang, marvellously atmospheric and gripping in its intensity. That it should I be almost unknown is incomprehensible. Although written with a male voice (bass) in mind, it sounds effective when sung by a woman, especially when the singer is as good as Linda Finnie. She gives a most moving performance and is sensitively accompanied by the orchestra.
Strauss’s scoring no horns, trumpets or percussion but three trombones-conveys the nocturnal mystery unerringly. We are not far here from the monologues of Salome and Elektra. Hear this and share my excitement over a major discovery.
Diepenbrock – Songs
The main melody here is of an entranced lyricism, its kinship to Mahler pointed by the presence of a mandoline in the orchestra, but what seems to be pure Diepenbrock is the frequent use of a passionate obbligato violin, an image of the humanity to which the beauty of night is indifferent, another nobly beautiful song, and sung with full-voiced solemnity by Linda Finnie.
Bliss – The Enchantress
The Enchantress, on the other hand, a scena written for Kathleen Ferrier in 1951, seems a rather con trived piece, not unlike the work it anticipates in many respects, Britten’s Phandra. One can admire it without being drawn or deeply involved. Linda Finnie is a powerfully dramatic soloist and Handley conducts the Ulster Orchestra in as convincing a performance as is possible.
Walton – Vocal works
There are more Henry V anticipations, this time of the gentle interludes and with a Spanish accent, in the central Romanza – beautifully sung by Linda Finnie.
Chausson – Poeme de l’amour et de la mer
On the other hand, an understanding of the words in the Chausson Poeme de l’amour et de la mer is essential, and except for the ASV recording by Carole Farley this is the only issue to include a translation (a good one). Linda Finnie’s seductively beautiful voice is, as a mezzo, warmer than Farley’s bright sounding soprano (she also sings the cycle a tone lower) but without the overample tone which de tracts from idiomatic Gallic style in Jessye Norman’s Erato recording – and with better French, Finnie has obviously given thought to the coloration of tone needed to give intensity to “Toi que transfiguraient la jeunesse et l’amour, bleakness to Comme des fronts de morts” and yearning to “Le printemps est triste”