In the recent surge of CD’s featuring music by women composers This Be Her Verse offers a veritable breath of fresh air. South African soprano Golda Schultz works from an intrinsic motivation.
In the booklet she writes how she always strived to give voice to unexplored corners of the female perspective in songs written by male composers. During a run-through of Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade, she realized something essential was missing: the woman’s voice itself.
However brilliantly Schubert depicted ‘the obsession, the restlessness and the sheer panicked joy’ of a young girl overwhelmed by her first love, ‘still, for me, her true voice was missing’. Schultz stopped rehearsal halfway through the piece: ‘What if a woman told her own story?’ she asked her pianist Jonathan Ware. – And got to work.
She commissioned a song cycle from Kathleen Tagg on Lila Palmer’s three-part poem This Be Her Verse, about a woman who takes her life into her own hands. In the title song, muffled strings sound a heartbeat under increasingly agitated outbursts from the soprano who rebels against ‘His ego self’. After this follow hilarious settings of ‘Wedding’, in which a bride waits in vain for her groom, and ‘Single Bed’, about the benefits of living alone and sleeping between clean sheets. The short cycle is a gem of modern Lied-writing.
Schultz also unearthed a setting of Erlkönig by Emilie Mayer, a composer who was forgotten soon after her death in 1883, but has recently been re-discovered. In her unprecedentedly intense setting of Goethe’s poem, Mayer emulates her predecessor Schubert. Powerful rumblings of the piano evoke the child’s fear of the murderous fairy king, whose coaxing whisperings are caught in sweetly flowing lines from the soprano.
No less exciting is Rebecca Clarke’s Tiger, in which pounding chords and half-whispered melodic phrases make the dark tenor of William Blake’s poem perfectly palpable. In Lieder opus 12, Clara Schumann demonstrates her talent for pairing an expressive vocal part with an equally incandescent piano accompaniment.
Nadia Boulanger’s music may be less poignant than her sister Lili’s, but the recitative style and slow pace of Cantique emanate a serene and wistful charm.
With her nimble voice and perfect diction, Schultz irrevocably takes you in for the 18 highly varied songs on this CD, aided in no small part by the alert and responsive accompaniment of Jonathan Ware. Buy this CD!