Prima Voce - Zinka Milanov In Recital - Schumann, Brahms, Etc

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A vibrant sense of identification and technical control at its most impressive.

If you’ve been following the Nimbus Milanov releases you’ll know that their earlier foray into her recorded legacy was a Milanov sings Verdi disc (see review). There, in all her opulent and passionate splendour, she proved herself a legendary heroine, a Verdian of unimpeachable, sometimes torrential expressive qualities. But it was the more thoughtful and delicately deployed moments in her singing that also linger in the mind – her absolute control of pianissimi, the sheer refinement of much of what she did. And that leads one to this latest Milanov disc of aria antiche, lieder, and national folk songs.

The recital starts with that old standby Caro mio ben. Note that the portamenti – always a feature of her art - are relatively discreet, the voice not over-scaled, the chest voice lightly deployed. It’s an imaginative, intelligent performance and contrasts quite firmly with that of many of her contemporaries in this repertoire. Schumann’s Widmung has the requisite urgency of utterance; her German is as ever excellent. Mondnacht is also well judged and she doesn’t do too much with it. The brace of Brahms songs is similarly accomplished, the lulling Wiegenlied especially. But it’s the Strauss songs that show her affinities best I think. Her vibrant sense of identification can be gauged best from Caecilie where the technical control is at its most impressive, though Zueignung is powerful in its own right.

The Yugoslav songs offer another avenue into appreciating Milanov. Some were composed by her brother, her accompanist for the bulk of these tracks, Bozidar Kunc. All are pleasurable. Bersa’s She Duš Dan has an unforced gravity and a near operatic intensity. And Kunc’s ?ežnja is full of urgent, almost florid romanticism, well suited to Milanov’s voice and sense of declamatory power. She brings affectionate refinement, scaled dynamics to The World is Empty. The Songs of Yugoslavia, songs arranged by Dr. Lujo Goranin, are accompanied by an anonymous pianist and violinist; the set was recorded in 1943 whereas everything else derives from sessions in 1955. Milanov’s portamento style is heard to good effect in these six songs. The Magyar influence is strong, tinged with Old Vienna in Gor ?ez jezero – beautifully controlled diminuendi from Milanov here – though elsewhere things are stylistically generic. In the main, though, romantic allure wins the day especially when performed so alluringly as here. There’s nothing in these songs as touching, or important, as the Czechoslovak songs Jarmila Novotna sang at around this time but that doesn’t lessen the impact of Milanov’s singing of them.

There’s residual hiss on the Yugoslav songs, as one would expect. Transfers are fine, the notes too and up to the expected standard.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: NI7948

  • UPC: 710357794827

  • Label: Nimbus

  • Composer: Blagoje Bersa, Bozidar Kunc, Johannes Brahms, Josip Pavcic, Richard Hageman, Richard Strauss, Robert Schumann, Tommaso Giordani, Traditional

  • Performer: Bozidar Kunc, Zinka Milanov