This will be his verse (Golda Schultz, Jonathan Ware)

South African soprano Golda Schultz spotlights five female composers on her satisfying new album, This Be Her Verse. Beginning with romantics Emilie Mayer and Clara Schumann, to mid-century luminaries Nadia Boulanger and Rebecca Clarke, and up to the present day with the inclusion of South African composer Kathleen Tagg, there’s plenty to discover. and to cherish here.

In the introduction to the album’s liner notes, Schultz recounts how the idea for the album came about when she was rehearsing Schubert’s album. Gretchen am Spinnrade with the American pianist Jonathan Ware (who also accompanies him here). The song, a staple of the Lieder repertoire, takes its lyrics from Goethe Faust and depicts the frenetic mental state of a young girl experiencing the joys and anguish of first love. Despite the song’s pedigree, Schultz wondered if the female perspective at the heart of the song would be sharper, truer, if the music or lyrics were written by a woman instead.

This be his verse confirms this idea, the album conceived as “meditations on life from the female point of view”, encompassing the themes of love, fear, nature and self-concept. It’s a pleasure to hear Schultz’s warm, silky soprano in this expansive program, and her ability to weave in and out of the diverse styles captured here is commendable.

Op by Clara Schumann. 12 Lieder opens the album, a clever showcase for its fine grained and almost wise soprano. Ware proves to be a very likeable partner, and they run through the delicate lines of the set’s first song, Liebst du um Schönheit, with a swan-like ease, imparting a sense of youthful nostalgia. Schultz’s lively German and interpretive skills carry her all the way to the lighter Warum willst du and’re fragenand she adopts a nervous and frantic energy for the conclusion Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen.

Her sense of drama is amply demonstrated in Emilie Mayer’s set of Erlkönig, more familiar to the public thanks to Schubert’s treatment of Goethe’s text. Schultz relies on a surprisingly broad color palette here to refer to the three characters depicted and is matched by Ware in intensity.

Rebecca Clarke’s more earthy songs represent exactly the kind of stylistic departure that Schultz manages with aplomb on this album, requiring passages of Sprechgesang and sustained passages. The seal man is imbued with thorny concentration, while Clarke’s staging of William Blake The Tyger is given a striking interpretation by Schultz. Nadia Baker hymn is yet another step change, less dramatic in appearance and more conversational in its evocation of grace.

Kathleen Tagg song cycle This be his verse concludes the album in a satisfying way. Commissioned by Schultz and with lyrics by Lila Palmer, the three-song set explores a very contemporary take on femininity, with the centerpiece, Wedding, incorporating COVID into its premise. It’s an evocative and distinctive work, and it’s clear that Schultz savors each dramatic scenario, by turns melancholic and ferocious, lavishing a flood of golden tone on one phrase before whitewashing his soprano with all colors.

A highly recommended listen.

Available on Apple Music

Composers: Clara Schumann, Rebecca Clarke, Kathleen Tagg et al.
Works: Selected songs
Performers: Golda SchultzJonathan Ware

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