Ute Lemper

Forever: The Love Poems of Pablo Neruda

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The German singer Ute Lemper enjoyed a vogue in the early '90s, flamed out, and did not let that bother her in the least. She has continued to expand on her music's basic core of German cabaret song in fascinating ways, but even her fans may not be prepared for this entirely original album featuring texts by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda wrote in various modes, including the surrealist and the explicitly political, but his love poetry is the topic here. The music is by Lemper herself, along with the Argentine bandoneón player and composer Marcelo Nisinman, who has emerged as a flexible translator of tango into other media. They're not exactly full-fledged settings of Neruda's poetry, but instead adaptations of it for a small tango ensemble, which fits extremely well with Neruda's combination of colloquial eroticism and dense, intricate imagery. You get the feeling that if Piazzolla were alive today, he would have wished he had written this. Some of the poems are translated into French or English, apparently to allow Lemper to display her considerable facility with languages, and it's undeniable that this is one of the pleasures of her music-making. It's not that her pronunciation is any great shakes, but she somehow manages to get the expressive essence of each tongue, and she does very well with it. This is undoubtedly an offbeat item, but fans both of Lemper and of tango will enjoy it.

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