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Ives: Songs

Jill Feldman (Soprano) Jeannette Koekkoek (Piano)

Olive Music CD 011

Jill Feldman is a singer of immense versatility, whom I recall particularly from a wonderful week in Antwerp for the Laus Polyphoniae festival of early music, in which she collaborated as teacher and performer with her husband Kees Boeke, who produced this special CD, and to whom she expresses indebtedness for introducing her to "these wonderful songs". I had the pleasure of spending time with them and afterwards reviewing some of their recordings of music in very different genres on their choice "own label" Olive Music, which is well worth exploring - and do check out also the link above to our review of the festival!

The songs of Charles Ives (1874 - 1954) had a difficult gestation; still virtually unknown around 1920, he was fortunately a successful business man and so able to afford to send out "hundreds of copies of his self published volume of 114 songs", a beautiful publication from which I got to know many of the easier ones, going through them accompanying my small son Simon Woolf in the '60s. Ives had distributed them "like a stranded sailor throwing bottles out to sea" to begin a long process of belated recognition (Evan Rothstein).

Ives is now well served on CD and I have several recommendable ones devoted to his songs, including Roberta Alexander [Etcetera KTC 1068] and Gerald Finley [HYPERION CDA 67516]. With so many songs to choose from "in a bewildering kaleidoscope of styles", there are not too many overlaps, and the American-born Jill Feldman (long based in Belgium) concentrates mostly on gentler introspective examples, interpreting them with light inflection in her native tongue. Her voice is pure with vibrato restricted (she is a specialist in early music) and she is strongly supported by her pianist colleague and friend Jeannette Koekkoek, who makes light of some of the more complicated accompaniments.

The presentation is exemplary, with an authoritative essay and bibliography, the song texts with translations easy to read (and essential to follow even though Jill Feldman's diction is excellent). The whole is delightfully packaged and pleasing to hold. This is one of my best song CDs of the year; there is so much here to relish and ponder that it makes you wonder anew why the standard German lieder have such a strangle hold on recital and CD production. Don't pass it by !

Peter Grahame Woolf