Karen Vourc'h / Susan Manoff TILL SOLVEIG...

The predominantly Scandinavian repertory on this album might seem an odd choice for a French soprano, but Karen Vourc'h, a former physics student, is of partly Norwegian background A few of the Grieg songs, such as Solveig's Song (track 5), are familiar recital items, but much of Vourc'h's material is unusual. The Grieg songs, even where originally in other languages, are sung in Norwegian. A group of songs by Jean Sibelius is in Swedish, and Vourc'h makes a good case for these little-known, rough-hewn pieces. Lesser known still is Ture Rangström's Pan (track 9), a gorgeous interlude of deep summer in the middle of the program. Vourc'h returns to more familiar ground with a set of Debussy songs at the end. What's most impressive is how she modulates her voice among the various styles present in this little vocal recital, with a soft, luxuriant sound in the Grieg, a rougher edge in the Sibelius, and a classic repose in Debussy's concluding Beau soir. There isn't a dull moment in this performance of largely fresh material, and Vourc'h makes it seem both personal and perfectly controlled. Highly recommended. (James Manheim)

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