Helen Watts – Lieder Recital
Helen Watts; Geoffrey Parsons
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4828588
Barcode
00028948285884
Format
2-CD
About

Presented on CD for the first time and newly remastered, a pair of Romantic Lieder recitals by the Welsh contralto who inherited the mantle of Kathleen Ferrier.

The history of British contraltos on record, stretches back to Constance Shacklock and before her Dame Clara Butt but it was Ferrier who defined the sound of that voice type for millions of listeners around the world. Produced as if from a great distance, noble and yet communicating the most profound and immediate of emotions, the possessors of a true contralto voice inspired Handel, Elgar and others to compose some of their most heartfelt arias.

It was with the music of Handel that the Welsh contralto, Helen Watts, made her debut on record: in performances of ‘Semele’ and ‘Sosarme’ recorded by L’Oiseau-Lyre, released in 1955 and reissued by Eloquence. Along with Alfred Deller and William Herbert, Watts counts among those British singers discovered by the founder of L’Oiseau-Lyre, Louise Hanson Dyer, in her search the young and talented musicians who could breathe new life into old and mostly unfamiliar music. Her career burgeoned, on disc and especially on the concert platform where she became the alto soloist of choice for countless performances of ‘Messiah’ and ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.

However, Watts was also an accomplished recitalist and her gifts in this area have often been overlooked. This release compiles the first two song recitals she recorded, in 1963 and 1964. In the world of Schumann’s ‘Frauenliebe und -Leben’ she enters intimately into each song’s shades of feeling and she brings a special passion to the three Mignon songs of Hugo Wolf. The earlier recital, couples more Schumann – notably the late and haunted ‘Five Songs of Mary Stuart’ – with favourite Lieder of Brahms such as ‘Ständchen’ and the Op. 91 pair with obbligato viola (Cecil Aronowitz). The anthology is completed with more Brahms, the Alto Rhapsody she recorded in Geneva with Ernest Ansermet in 1965: solemn, yet warm and deeply human, a perfect testament to her art and to the praise of her modern counterpart, Nathalie Stutzmann: ‘an extraordinary contralto’.

TRACK LISTING / ARTISTS

CD 1*
HUGO WOLF
Mignon I–IV (Goethe-Lieder)
Auch kleine Dinge
Mausfallen-Sprüchlein
Epiphanias

ROBERT SCHUMANN
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42
Fünf Gedichte von Mary Stuart, Op. 135
Er ist’s, Op. 79 No. 23
Marienwürmchen, Op. 79 No. 13
Frühlingsnacht, Op. 39 No. 12
Der Sandmann, Op. 79 No. 12
Widmung, Op. 25, No. 1

CD 2
FRANZ SCHUBERT
Ständchen, D.892
Elizabethan Singers
Viola Tunnard,
piano
Louis Halsey

JOHANNES BRAHMS
Mädchenlied, Op. 107 No. 5*
Des Liebsten Schwur, Op. 69 No. 4*
Der Schmied, Op. 19 No. 4*
Ständchen, Op. 14 No. 7*
Zwei Gesänge mit Viola, Op. 91 (with Cecil Aronowitz, viola)
Geoffrey Parsons, piano

Alto Rhapdsody, Op. 53
Les Chœur de la Radio Suisse Romande et Pro Arte de Lausanne L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Ernest Ansermet

Helen Watts, contralto

*FIRST INTERNATIONAL CD RELEASE ON DECCA

Track previews
Gestillte Sehnsucht, Op. 91, No. 1
Five Poems of Mary Stuart, Op. 135: 4. Abschied von der Welt
Italienisches Liederbuch, nach Paul Heyse: 1. Auch kleine Dinge
Gedichte von J. W. von Goethe: 9. Mignon IV (Kennst du das Land)
Gedichte von J. W. von Goethe: 7. Mignon III (So laß mich scheinen)
Gedichte von J. W. von Goethe: 6. Mignon II (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt)
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 5. Helft mir, ihr Schwestern
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 4. Du Ring an meinem Finger
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 3. Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 2. Er, der Herrlichste von allen
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 1. Seit ich ihn gesehen
Gedichte von J. W. von Goethe: 19. Epiphanias
Sechs Lieder für eine Frauenstimme: 6. Mausfallen-Sprüchlein (Mörike)
Lieder-Album für die Jugend, Op. 79: 13. Marienwürmchen
Lieder-Album für die Jugend, Op. 79: 23. Er ist's
Five Poems of Mary Stuart, Op. 135: 5. Gebet
Five Poems of Mary Stuart, Op. 135: 3. An die Königin Elisabeth
Geistliches Wiegenlied, Op. 91, No. 2
Five Poems of Mary Stuart, Op. 135: 2. Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes
Five Poems of Mary Stuart, Op. 135: 1. Abschied von Frankreich
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 8. Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 7. An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust
Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42: 6. Süsser Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an
Ständchen, Op. 14, No. 7
Der Schmied, Op. 19, No. 4
Des Liebsten Schwur, Op. 69, No. 4
Mädchenlied, Op. 107, No. 5
Ständchen, D. 920
Myrthen, Op. 25: 1. Widmung
Lieder-Album für die Jugend, Op. 79: 12. Der Sandmann
Liederkreis, Op. 39: 12. Frühlingsnacht
Rhapsody for Alto, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 53
Gedichte von J. W. von Goethe: 5. Mignon I (Heiß mich nicht reden)
Recording information

Recording Producers: unidentified (Brahms, Schumann: Lieder); Michael Bremner (Schubert); John Mordler (Brahms: Alto Rhapsody)
Balance Engineers: unidentified (Brahms: Lieder, Schumann); Kenneth Wilkinson (Schubert); James Lock, David Frost (Brahms: Alto Rhapsody)
Recording Locations: London, UK, 8–9 February 1963 (Brahms, Schumann: Lieder); Conway Hall, London, 18–19 September 1965 (Wolf, Schumann: Frauenliebe); Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, 31 October 1965 (Brahms: Alto Rhapsody); Kingsway Hall, London, UK, October 1966 (Schubert)
Original LP Releases: L’Oiseau-Lyre SOL 268 (Brahms, Schumann: Lieder); L’Oiseau-Lyre SOL 293 (Wolf, Schumann: Frauenliebe); Argo ZRG 527 (Schubert); Decca SET 333-34 (Brahms: Alto Rhapsody)

Reviews

‘Gestillte Sehnsucht shows off her velvety low notes to perfection … She sings Mary’s prayer on the birth of her son with deep devotion … [Geoffrey Parsons] is a perfect partner in this most successful recital … Helen Watts must give us some Wolf.’ Gramophone, May 1964

‘The Mignon songs, so complex in texture but needing to be performed with great clarity and simplicity, call for the notable gifts of interpretation Miss Watts possesses.’ Gramophone, October 1966 (Wolf)