Sunday 12 April 2015

Varda Kotler brings her distinctive soprano voice to an attractive and extremely varied recital from Forlane

Soprano Varda is a native of Tel Aviv and a graduate of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. She studied with Netania Dovrat and later with Vera Roze in London and Rita Patane in New York and Italy.

She has performed at festivals, operas houses and concert halls in Israel and Europe and has worked with conductors such as Pinchas Steinberg, Siegfried Köhler, Lawrence Foster, Kees Bakels, Arthur Fagen, Steven Sloane, Andreas Mitisek and Mandy Rodan as well as with the New York Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, led by Hugo Weisgall. Recitals, operas and concerts have taken her to Monte Carlo, Vienna, Paris, New York, Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne and Messina.

Her first CD recital appeared in 1999 and her CDs Melodies Londonienne and Ben-Haim Melodies were nominated for theVictoires de la musique classique in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

Varda Kotler’s latest recording for Forlane entitled L’Heure Romantique brings a wide ranging recital of songs and arias from Purcell through to Paul Ben-Haim. On this new disc she is joined by pianist Israel Kastoriano.

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It is with Henry Purcell’s (1659-1695), Music for a while that Varda Kotler begins her recital. There is nothing of the historically informed performance movement here. She has a very attractive vibrato as she shapes this lovely song, full of pathos with some lovely, distinctive touches.

Turning to Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) she brings a youthful charm to Ich ging mit lust durch einen grünen Wald (Lieder und Gesange aus der Jugendzeit Book II – 1888-1891) with a very flexible and controlled voice, with lovely upper range. Israel Kastoriano provides sensitive accompaniment, beautifully done.

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft (from Funf Lieder nach Ruckert - 1901) has almost Debussian rippling piano phrases in the opening with Kotler moving her voice subtly from pure to vibrato with a very distinctive tone. It is only in Liebst du um Schönheit (from Funf Lieder nach Ruckert -1902) that perhaps this soprano allows a little too much vibrato yet there is much gentle feeling here.

Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856)Abendlied (No.5 from Sechs Gesänge Op.17) is very finely sung, a characterful performance with Varda bringing some very attractive tones and textures. Some lovely phrases as Der Nussbaum (No.3 from Myrthen, Op.25) opens revealing the best of this soprano’s voice, finely controlled and phrased with lovely accompaniment from Israel Kastoriano.

With Du bist wie eine Blume (No.24 from Myrthen, Op.25)she subtly allows the music to rise and fall in intensity before bringing a first rate performance of the lively Die Meerfee (No.3 from Fünf heitere Gesänge, Op.125), beautifully shaped. There is an equally fine Erstes Grün (No.4 from Zwölf Gedichte, Op.35) where this soprano follows all the little tempo variations, very nicely paced and phrased, revealing some fine textures.

Varda Kotler’s vibrato brings a naturally Gallic flavour to George Bizet’s (1838-1875) Ma vie a son secret. This is a finely built performance with an idiomatic accompaniment from Kastoriano. I particularly enjoyed Sonnet with its lovely rhythmic poise, drawing so many fine textures and sonorities.

There is a finely controlled Rose d’amour with more lovely colours and warm textures from this soprano. Kotler brings a very flexible, light textured, lively voice to Tarentelle; a difficult piece to bring off which she does with panache. Kotler and Kastoriano bring a fine sweep to Guitare, full of Iberian flavour with some supremely agile singing.

Varda Kotler reveals again her operatic ability to characterise a song with André Caplet’s (1878-1925)Le Corbeau et le Renard, brilliantly done and so well accompanied by Israel Kastoriano.

Kotler showed in Bizet’s Tarentella how well she can vocalise. With Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937)Vocalise-Etude (en form De habandera)she brings a lovely freedom of expression, finely controlled and full of intense feeling as she does with Paul Ben-Haim’s (1897-1984) Ariozo and Ballad (from Three Songs without Words). She builds Ariozo in intensity with some lovely dissonant harmonies from Israel Kastoriano, showing a fine vocal strength. She brings some fine textures to the Ballad, finely accompanied. These are two particularly fine songs.

There is a lovely Hebraic flavour Alexander Boskovich’s (1907-1964) How Beautiful you are (from Song of Songs), finely wrought by this soprano with sensitive accompaniment, full of atmosphere.

Kotler catches the fleeting atmosphere and beauty of Joseph Cantelube’s (1879-1957) Chorietan buruzagi a lovely folk song arrangement with some particularly fluent piano accompaniment. There is a lovely vibrancy to La pastura als camps with lovely tone and textures from this soprano.

Finally Varda Kotler gives us Giacomo Meyerbeer’s (1791-1864)aria Nobles Seigneurs, Salut! from Les Huguenots, very finely controlled in the decorative passages with this soprano subtly varying her tone and textures.

Varda Kotler has a very distinctive voice. She controls her vibrato exceptionally well, often powering forward to find a purer tone. This is an attractive and extremely varied recital, well recorded. There are brief but useful booklet notes from Varda Kotler as well as full texts with English and French translations.

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