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 Recording of the Week  Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink

There are certain works that I always associate with a specific recording. They tend to be either recordings that I grew up with or ones that I fell in love with on the very first hearing and played over and over again. For example, I was given a copy of Barbirolli’s Mahler 5 with my first record player around my 12th birthday and it has always remained the one I turn to for that work.

If you are not careful you find yourself comparing all other recordings unfavourably to the one you know and love, just because they are different. Similarly I overhear people at concerts making comments like 'that was too fast' not because they've studied the work in great detail and come up with what they consider the optimum tempo, but just because it was faster than the one they've got at home.

Bernarda Fink
Bernarda Fink

I've generally learnt to listen with a very open mind but I still get caught out occasionally. One such example was with a new recording of the enchanting Berlioz song cycle Les Nuits D'été. I was mesmerised about 5 years ago by Veronique Gens, struck by her wonderful clear tone and uncomplicated approach. I found it just beautiful and she quickly became my benchmark recording.

My first reaction then to the rich velvety tones of Bernarda Fink (released next Monday) was not a good a one. However a few more listenings and I've changed my mind completely. Venonique Gens, wonderful though she is in the first and last songs, just doesn't have the weight of voice or variety of colours to cope with the middle ones, full of passion and emotion. Bernarda Fink’s reading here is a triumph.

A timely reminder for me then to always try and listen with an open mind - especially in works where you already have a clear favourite!

Berlioz & Ravel: Song Cycles

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