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Born Elisabeth Sara Ameling on 8 February 1933 in Rotterdam, the Dutch soprano known as Elly Ameling won first prize at the Vocal Concours in ’s- Hertogenbosch in Holland in 1956, and the Concours International de Musique in Geneva in 1958. She gave her first formal recital in Amsterdam in 1961 and went on to perform for more than thirty years in virtually every major cultural centre in the world as one of the greatest singers of our age, renowned for her warm, unaffected personality, purity of tone and effortless technique. She made her career mainly as a concert and lieder singer, with some appearances in opera (Mozart and Haydn), and became renowned for her recitals of French and German songs and for her superlative interpretative gifts.
CD 1 begins with two solo cantatas for soprano by Johann Sebastian Bach – the famous Wedding Cantata (BWV202) and ‘Non sa che sia dolore’ (BWV209) – followed by further arias from Bach cantatas and oratorios.
CD 2 presents more music by Bach, with a collection of beautiful soprano arias from cantatas, accompanied by oboe and bass continuo. The oboe soloist is the Dutch virtuoso Han de Vries, who plays three different types of instrument, namely the normal oboe, the ‘oboe da caccia’ and the ‘oboe d’amore’, as specified by the composer, to striking musical effect in the various arias.
In CD 3 Ameling shows her skill as an unrivalled interpreter of the music of Schubert with a collection of the composer’s best-known and most popular Lieder including ‘Die Forelle’, ‘Ave Maria’, ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ and ‘An die Musik. The piano accompanists are Irwin Gage and Jörg Demus.
CD 4 opens with Schubert’s great showpiece for soprano and clarinet: ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ (‘The Shepherd on the Rock’), in which the clarinet soloist is George Pietersen, plus three other Schubert songs. These are followed by a group of songs by Mozart, including ‘Ridente la calma’, ‘Dans un bois solitaire’ and ‘Un moto di gioia’. The soprano is accompanied by Irwin Gage in the Schubert and Jörg Demus in the Mozart.
In CDs 5 and 6, Ameling moves into the field of French song, for which she was trained by the famous French baritone Pierre Bernac. Her repertoire here encompasses many well-known songs by Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Francis Poulenc. She is accompanied by the distinguished pianist Dalton Baldwin, with whom she frequently performed.
In CD 7 we hear a collection of much loved popular songs, typical of the mixed programmes with which the artist always delighted her audiences at recitals. These include Mendelssohn’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’ (‘On Wings of Song’) and Grieg’s ‘Ich liebe dich’ (‘I Love You’). The disc closes with a further group of French mélodies by Poulenc.
The final CD begins with a collection of Christmas songs from many lands, to which Ms Ameling brings her own special charm. Then comes a typical example of Ameling as a participant in a large-scale liturgical work, in the Kyrie from Beethoven’s Mass in C, where her clearly focussed voice blends perfectly with those of her three fellow soloists. The programme ends with the finale from Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, in which Ameling is heard as the radiant soprano soloist extolling the joys of heaven in a child-like way, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by André Previn.
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