Ayelet Amots-Avramson and Jonathan Zak: "Von Ewiger Liebe"
Lieder by Berg, Brahms and Mahler. Texts and translations. Roméo Records 7288
Ayelet Amots-Avramson's forwardly placed, almost reedy timbre may take some listeners by surprise. The voice's propensity to sit in the midrange and settle downward marks it as a mezzo. Still, there are few hints of the tonal weight and deeper coloring once expected, not to say required, of a lower female voice.
The Israeli singer's no-nonsense approach to her opening group of ten Brahms songs militates against the gloominess that this composer's thick textures can easily suggest. There are hints that Amots-Avramson hasn't quite sorted out her upper range: in "Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht," she distorts the first "Liebe" almost to "Leube"; elsewhere, some climaxes verge on overload. Still, she offers many lovely moments, conveying the varied moods of "Von ewiger Liebe," finding gravity to balance her bright timbre in "Auf dem Kirchhofe." If she misses the arching line of "Verzogen," she projects it nicely in "Botschaft" and in a spacious "Die Mainacht."
The rest of the program, unfortunately, mostly highlights Amots-Avramson's technical shortcomings. The folklike Zigeunerlieder would seem tailor-made for her; in the first few songs, however, the accents impede the broad legato. (That balance improves as the cycle progresses.) The soloist is sensitive and musical in Berg's Seven Early Songs — the rocking pulse of "Die Nachtigall" is alluring — but they too frequently expose her strained top, with mushy articulation in "Liebesode"to boot. And the Rückert-Lieder — here cautiously negotiated, there oversung — are a dead loss, save for an unexpectedly moving "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen."
Jonathan Zak, a similarly forthright accompanist, can set the wrong tone: the introduction to "Botschaft," for example, inadvertently becomes the "cavalry charge" Gerald Moore warned against. But his dexterity, firmly grounded sonority and wide-ranging palette — note the shimmering start of "Ich atmet' einen Linden duft" — are very much to the point. Berg's exploratory Expressionism comes off well; so do the pictorial surge of "Verzogen" and the emotional one of "Meine Liebe ist grün." Taking his cue from the soloist, he scales down affectingly at the close of "Auf dem Kirchhofe" and "Die Mainacht."
The sound is clear and well balanced, though Amots-Avramson is more closely miked than necessary. The pauses between groups should have been longer, if only to distinguish them more clearly.
STEPHEN FRANCIS VASTA
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