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Smyth and Mendelssohn CD reviews


SMYTH SONGS AND BALLADS: Stevens / Marcus / Berkeley Ensemble / Martinez (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0611) ★★★

Lucy Stevens is an actor and singer acclaimed for her one-woman shows including Grasp the Nettle based on the life of composer Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944). A fascinating life too: trained at Leipzig Conservatory and the first woman to have an opera produced at Covent Garden. A solid Victorian upbringing but a rebel; bisexual and a suffragette jailed in Holloway for her political activities. Stevens, with a powerful contralto voice, sings a wide variety of Smyth's songs accompanied in Four Songs, by the Berkeley Ensemble under Odaline de la Martine, and in the rest by pianist Elizabeth Marcus her musical partner from the Smyth stage show. I expect that was an entertaining evening but on disc it doesn't work – the musical material isn't strong enough. The early works are twee and the Lieder like diluted Brahms. Without the show&…

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