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Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert
24 Sep 2006

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

In her debut recording the young Roumanian soprano Katarina Jovanic demonstrates her talent in performing an intriguing selection of Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss.

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

Katarina Jovanovic (soprano), Bruno Fontaine (piano), Florent Heau (clarinet)

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Her accompanist in what is essentially a vocal recital is Bruno Fontaine, who has worked with such performers as Julia Migenes and Ute Lemper. As a producer, Fontaine worked with Lemper on her CDs entitled Illusions and City of Strangers, both fine efforts for the team. On this CD Fontaine demonstrates his work as an accompanist in literature that shows his talents in this area.

As to the contents of the CD, it includes four songs by Brahms (“Mädchenfluch,” “Mädchenlied,” “Verscheller Schwur,” and “Das Mädchen”), six by Strauss (“Ruhe, meine Seele,” “Cäcilie,” “Heimliche Aufforderung,” “Morgen,” “Hat gesagt,” and “Schlechtes Wetter), and seven by Schubert (“Die junge Nonne,” “ Lietanei auf das Fest Allerseelen,” “Die Sterne,” “Bei dir,” “Erster Verlust,” “Rastlose Liebe,” and “Der Hirt auf de Felsen”). The literature is fairly standard, but the inclusion in a single program is something of a challenge, especially with the Strauss songs, which have demands of their own.

Jovanic has an engaging voice, and in approaching Lieder brings out the text clearly. At times, as in Strauss’s “Ruhe, meine Seele,” it can tend toward an arioso approach to the music. This serves her well in bringing out the rhythms of the poetry that are essential to this literature, which must be part of the line. In lines that require vocalizing, as at the end of “Cäcilie,” it is possible to hear Jovanic’s strong and consistent tone. This serves her well in delivering a good selection of Brahms’s Lieder, as its dramatic qualities allow the vocal line to emerge clearly from that composer’s sometimes dense accompaniments.

With the latter, Fontaine accompanies her sometimes impetuously, as in “Mädchenfluch,” the piece that opens the recording. Sometimes the performers seem to push the tempos just a bit, and that gives can bring out the drama implicit in the texts. Fontaine is a deft pianist, and his own interpretations are not without interest. While he can be aggressive with some of Strauss’s music, he also demonstrates exemplary finesse with Schubert’s song.

In fact, the most interesting selection on this CD is the final one, Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” D. 965, with the well-known clarinet obliggato. Joined by Florent Heau. This piece by Schubert resembles some of a Baroque solo cantata, and the demands of a piece of this length show Jovanic’s voice well. With the tone set by the clarinetist Heau, Jovanic offers a solid interpretation of this piece, where the clarinet and voice echo each other in lines that intersect in the manner of fine chamber music. Fontaine accompanies both soloists well, and the three performers offers a fine conclusion to this curious, yet satisfying recording of what is essentially a Liederaband. This recording is an excellent introduction to the young and talented soprano Katarina Jovanic, and those intrigued by her voice will, no doubt, want to see how she develops her promising career.

James L. Zychowicz

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