«LAURA CLAYCOMB AND MARC TEICHOLZ celebrate their long friendship and collaboration with this scintillating collection of songs for soprano and guitar. Anchored by two cycles composed specifically for that combination (Mátyás Seiber’s Four French Folk Songs and William Walton’s Anon in Love), plus two Villa-Lobos songs, the remainder of the pieces were chosen thoughtfully.
Debussy’s “Mandoline” makes perfect sense with guitar accompaniment, although the arrangement of “En sourdine” doesn’t quite attain the accustomed shimmer. However, Manuel de Falla’s Siete canciones populares españolas seem to gain authenticity from the adaptation. Claycomb’s voice is pliant and rich, while Teicholz gets an opportunity to dig enthusiastically into the strings. She matches his percussiveness in the staccato sections of “Seguidilla murciana,” and the closing “Polo” finds both performers unleashing controlled fire. Her voice takes on a soothing breathiness in “Nana,” but that quality occasionally returns elsewhere to less felicitous effect, notably in “Réveillez-vous,” the first of the Seiber songs. The second, “J’ai descendu,” is charmingly coquettish, while in “Marguerite, elle est malade,” Claycomb makes clear that the only way Marguerite’s illness will end is with a hangover.
Many sopranos have recorded the Cantilena from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, but Claycomb’s timbre and the blend of melancholy and hopefulness with which she infuses the soaring line are hard to top. Her tonal precision and warm tone tease accessibility from the Walton songs. The elasticity of her coloratura is an asset as the vocal line scampers up and down the scale in “O stay, sweet love” and ”I gave her cakes and I gave her ale,” in which the guitar doubles as percussion. The recording is bookended by two similarly insistent but disparately harmonized “Open Your Hearts”: Blitzstein’s intense setting of an e.e. cummings poem, and Bizet’s sensual bolero “Ouvre ton coeur.”
—Joanne Sydney Lessner