Clare Lesser

Chanticlare: Contemporary Vocal Music

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British coloratura soprano Clare Lesser has a remarkable voice; she sails through this recital of daunting contemporary music for very high voice, mostly unaccompanied, with astonishing ease. Hers is not a conventionally operatic voice; in its lowest register it has something of a little-girlish quality that would not wash in most opera houses, where a particular timbre is required, but there are probably few singers anywhere who could negotiate the virtuosic and stratospheric demands of the music recorded here with anything like the piercing purity, technical finesse, control, pinpoint intonation, elegance, bravado, and ringing brilliance that Lesser has. This repertoire is definitely niche, but Lesser has few rivals in it and may in fact own it. Some of the pieces, Milko Kelemen's Die Sieben Plagen, for instance, call for extensive use of extended vocal techniques, but most memorable are the works that require a relatively straightforward coloratura technique. These include Michael Finnissy's Song 15, Scelsi's Hô, both wordless vocalizes, her husband David Lesser's Virgil settings, and Henze's Being Beauteous. The Henze, originally scored for four cellos and harp, heard here in the composer's arrangement for piano, has been recorded by traditional singers, most notably Edda Moser, but Lesser's performance is unrivaled; the long sustained high note at the end is a jaw-dropping marvel of crystalline fullness and intensity. Lesser brings a distinctive zaniness to her performance of Cathy Berberian's manic Stripsody. The whimsical solo, based on comic strips, seems like an effortlessly tossed-off bagatelle following what has come before and makes an ideal encore piece. Métier's sound is clear, present, and nicely ambient.

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