Anne Sofie von Otter / Bengt Forsberg

A Simple Song

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Listening to this recital by Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, one is struck by the number of things that could have gone wrong. Several of the tracks are influenced by (or, in the case of the final Climb Ev'ry Mountain, come directly from) American popular vocal idioms, and this is the black belt for European singers: even though von Otter has recorded pop music in the past, one may still be impressed by her mastery of the Broadway sound heard in the title track, from Leonard Bernstein's Mass. The device of having an organ accompaniment instead of a piano, might seem eccentric or monotonous, but thanks to the varied registrations of von Otter's longtime accompanist, Bengt Forsberg, it is neither. (The organ played is the one in the Stockholm church where von Otter began singing as a girl.) The program is highly varied but hangs together unexpectedly well; the title refers not just to the Bernstein work but to the general concept of simple songs excerpted from larger works and used for various purposes. Von Otter sings in English, German, French, and Latin, and moves with agility around the secular-sacred boundary suggested by the program as a whole. One might also note that the two folk song arrangements by Arvo Pärt are both rare and gripping, and that von Otter sounds fabulous for a 63-year-old singer. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:35
Poems (12) of Emily Dickinson, song cycle for voice & piano (orchestrated 1970 as "Poems (8) of Emily Dickinson")
2 2:07
3 2:33
4 4:13
5 5:11
6 2:51
7 4:10
8 7:11
9 3:45
Trois Mélodies
10 2:03
11 1:44
12 2:47
13 2:08
14 5:57
15 4:54
Ave Maria III (Sposalizio), S. 60
16 7:38
17 5:06
blue highlight denotes track pick