RECORDING

REVIEWS

“Connolly proves herself a worthy heir to Janet Baker in the lovely songs of Ireland, Moeran and Ivor Gurney, but this “garland” of 20th-century songs, superbly accompanied by Middleton as her equal partner, embraces “cycles” by the antipoles Britten and Tippett, whose Charm of Lullabies (1947) and Songs for Ariel (1962) are the meatiest items, sung with sumptuous tone, insight and perfect diction. Three premiere recordings include Britten’s A Sweet Lullaby and Somnus, and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s rapt Farewell (2016)”

(Chandos CD, 2018)
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

Fauré | La chanson d’Ève | Malcolm Martineau (Signum CD, 2017)

08 May 2017

“Sarah Connolly joins Martineau for the final third of the disc in La chanson d’Ève. It is certainly worth the wait, for Connolly is at her best, capturing the controlled, yet rapturous passion of this achingly beautiful cycle.”
Christopher Dingle, BBC Music Magazine, December 2017

“Central to Volume 2 is La chanson d’Ève, Op 95 to symbolist texts by Charles van Lerberghe, deliciously sung by Sarah Connolly who celebrates both the simplicity and the sensuality of this cycle.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 07 May 2017

Elgar | Sea Pictures & The Dream of Gerontius | BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis (Chandos CD, 2014)

22 Oct 2014

“Connolly’s Softy and Gently – and Sea Pictures – rivals [Janet] Baker’s in beauty of tone.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 19 October 2014

“Were singing the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius not challenge enough, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly opens the first disc of this recording with an imposing performance of Elgar’s Sea Pictures, premièred by contralto Dame Clara Butt—costumed as a mermaid!—in 1899. The Sea Pictures discography is dominated by Dame Janet Baker, but Ms. Connolly also recorded a potent performance of the songs with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 2006. In this recording, she and Maestro Davis create a haunting atmosphere, redolent of the sea and perceptive of the parallels between humanity and maritime nature. In ‘Sea Slumber-Song,’ Ms. Connolly’s quiet singing radiates maternal affection, and her evocation of peace within the tempest in ‘In Haven (Capri)’ is limpidly serene. The imagery of the sea as the medium of connection with the divine in ‘Sabbath Morning at Sea’ is eloquently elucidated by the singer’s vocal confidence and perfect diction. The mystery of ‘Where Corals Lie’ draws both singer and listener into the text, and Ms. Connolly reacts with singing that avoids ponderousness. The grandiloquence of her traversal of ‘The Swimmer,’ recalling not only Baker but Kathleen Ferrier before her, is magnificent, but the voice moves through the music with delicacy and flashes of humor. The brilliance and unflappable security of her top A in the song’s final phrase are eerily reminiscent of the singing of the young Christa Ludwig.

The Angel in The Dream of Gerontius was first sung by Marie Brema, a versatile singer whose Wagner repertory included Ortrud in Lohengrin, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, Fricka in Das Rheingold, the Walküre and Götterdämmerung Brünnhildes, and Kundry in Parsifal. In addition to her substantial achievements in music by Monteverdi, Bach, Händel, Mozart and bel canto, Ms. Connolly has shown in recent seasons that she is a bar-raising interpreter of Wagner, Mahler, and Richard Strauss repertory, as well. She proves in this recording that she is also an eminent portrayer of the Angel in The Dream of Gerontius. Her singing of ‘My work is done’ conveys a palpable sense of relief, and her answer to Gerontius’s Faustian quest for comprehension beyond his capacity, ‘You cannot now cherish a wish which ought not to be wish’d,’ is affectionate rather than arrogant. In Ms. Connolly’s performance, ‘It is because then thou didst fear, that now thou dost not fear’ movingly expresses the Angel’s faith in the redemptive capacity of humility. The Angel’s description of Christ’s time on earth is reverently voiced, and the affecting melodic lines of ‘Thy judgment now is near,’ ‘Praise to His name,’ ‘O happy, suffering soul! for it is safe, consumed, yet quicken’d, by the glance of God,’ and ‘Softly and gently, dearly-ransom’d soul, in my most loving arms I now enfold thee’ are phrased with subtlety and sung with flawless intonation. The pinnacle of Ms. Connolly’s performance is her uplifting assurance of Gerontius that ‘swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here, and I will come and wake thee on the morrow.’ Like Mr. Soar’s performance, the tremendous empathy of her portrayal of the Angel is enhanced immeasurably by the simple beauty of her singing.”
Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, 27 October 2014

“Arguably best of all, though, is Sarah Connolly, who brings a deeply affecting radiance, sense of wonder and intelligence to everything she does.  Disc 2 also contains a majestic performance of the Gerontius Prelude with its concert ending, while the main offering is preceded by a wholly sympathetic rendering of Sea Pictures, which (once again) finds Connolly in glorious voice. Davis and the BBC SO play their full part in a performance to rival such distinguished forebears as the Baker/Barbirolli (EMI), Greevy/Handley (CfP) and, yes, Connolly’s own conspicuously fresh and rewarding interpretation with Simon Wright and the Bournemouth SO (Naxos, 12/06). Chandos’s thrillingly tangible SACD sound packs an almighty punch in terms of lustre, amplitude and range (Croydon’s Fairfield Hall was the helpful venue). Dare we look forward to The Kingdom and The Apostles from this same source?”
Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone, November 2014

“Sarah Connolly gives a strongly characterised reading of the Angel’s music and her ‘Softly and gently’ in envelopingly tender without, crucially, becoming matronly. This Gerontius is a wonderful achievement, a deeply considered interpretation whose convincing spirituality never seems stuffy or over-reverential.  It takes an honoured place among the finest-ever versions of this much-recorded masterpiece, and would unquestionably be my preferred digital version.”
Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine, December 2014 (Recording of the Month)

“[In Sea Pictures] Sarah Connolly as enough vocal muscle to override the orchestra when necessary, but Elgar has seen to it that she rarely has to.  Davis quite rightly brings out Elgar’s imaginative and subtle use of the harp in the lovely fourth song ‘Where corals lie’.  Sample Connolly’s ravishing half tone at ‘Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well’ in that same song.  This is a loving performance, beautifully sung an played.  It will do very well well as a new addition to an already lengthy list of favourites.   [In Gerontius] Connolly is a very human Angel, attentive to her charge and with deep compassion.  Yet at many key moments – ‘A presage falls upon thee’, for example – she achieves the slight detachment her role requires.  Vocally she is unchallenged, with some entrancing pianissino singing.”
William Hedley, International Record Review, November 2014

“…of the three splendid soloists, Sarah Connolly’s contribution is a very special one – and her affectionate interpretation of Sea Pictures is another strong plus-point; no mere disc-filler, but rather an essential part of this marvellous and truly worthy winner.”
Christopher Nickol, Gramophone Awards Edition, 2015

JS Bach | St John Passion Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr | (AAM Records CD, 2014)

26 Mar 2014

“…the flair and dramatic concentration with which mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly sings the music of Bach. The naturalness of her phrasing in tandem with the oboes in ‘Von den Stricken meiner Sünden’ is peerless, and she wittily uses the rhythmic figurations to impart a sense of the freedom evoked in the text. The profundity that Ms. Connolly brings to her performance of ‘Es ist vollbracht,’ the weight of feeling never upsetting her preservation of the integrity of the vocal line, is wrenching. The breadth of sorrow is tempered by a captivating element of spiritual victory, communicated by the unsentimental simplicity of Ms. Connolly’s utterance and the unassailable pulchritude of her voice.”
Voix des Arts, 26 March 2014

“…the noble stillness of Sarah Connolly’s ‘Es ist vollbracht’…”
Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone, April 2014

Britten | The Rape of Lucretia | Orchestra of the English National Opera/Paul Daniel | (Opus Arte DVD, 2013)

17 Feb 2014

“Creada para Kathleen Ferrier y revivida por Janet Baker, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson y Jean Rigby entre otras recordadas mezzosopranos, el aporte de Sarah Connolly es sencillamente paradigmático. Además, el DVD sirve como un fascinante souvenir de la cantante hace una década y hoy la máxima exponente británica en su cuerda. Distante, desolada, contenida, vulnerable, la doliente Connolly compone una heroína en la gran tradición clásica, digna hermana de Dido, Safo, Fedra y Cleopatra. Actriz espléndida, vocalmente soberbia, hasta su estampa y porte soberano contribuyen a dejar una impresión inolvidable. Connolly es Lucrecia, no hay mejor halago.”
Sebastian Spreng, El Nuevo Herald, 16 February 2014

Mahler |Symphony no. 2 | Philharmonia/Benjamin Zander | (Linn CD, 2013)

28 Nov 2013

“Salvation is on hand from the ever-meaningful, velvet-toned mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly [and] you couldn’t wish for a more floaty soprano than Miah Persson.”
David Nice, BBC Music Magazine, December 2013

Mahler | Das Lied von der Erde | London Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin | (LPO Live CD, 2013)

01 Oct 2013

“Vocally, this is far more successful than the LPO’s EMI studio recording under the late, lamented Klaus Tennstedt. Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, it finds the tenor Toby Spence in ringing voice for the demanding Drinking Song, which he delivers as effortlessly as the incomparable Fritz Wunderlich. He makes light work of Of Youth, while the forced jollity of The Drunkard in Spring comes across forcefully. The mezzo Sarah Connolly’s timbre is brighter than that of Ferrier, Ludwig or Baker, but she has rarely sung with such limpid beauty. Yannick Nézet-Seguin perfectly captures the yearning for lost youth and resigned acceptance of mortality that pervades Mahler’s masterpiece.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 29 September 2013

“A paragon of stylishness and vocal richness in every piece that she performs, Sarah Connolly has nonetheless never sung better than in this performance of ‘Das Abschied.’  She has so many remarkable forbears in this music: Kerstin Thorborg, Kathleen Ferrier, Lili Chookasian, Christa Ludwig, and Dame Janet Baker are among the finest of them.  Ms. Connolly suffers nothing in comparison with these great ladies: indeed, her singing combines the finest qualities of these musical ancestors, the concentration of Ferrier and Baker allied with the raptly intelligent phrasing of Chookasian and the sheer beauty of Ludwig.  Throughout the range required by the music, Ms. Connolly’s voice is full, perfectly supported by an astonishing breath control, and genuinely lovely.  The suppleness with which she manages the crests of the vocal lines in ‘Das Abschied’ is refreshing.  Supported by Maestro Nézet-Séguin, Ms. Connolly gives as complete a performance of the mezzo-soprano songs as can be heard today—and, for that matter, as has been heard in any day—and a compelling display of the full gamut of her artistry.”
Joseph Newsome, Voix des Arts, 12 October 2013

“Desde el inicial Der Einsame im Herbst, Sarah Connolly insinúa una rara afinidad con la obra, creando una expectativa que se confirma totalmente en la inmensa canción final. Esa última media hora no sólo es, sino que se convierte en el núcleo indiscutible de la versión gracias a una Sarah Connolly en literal estado de gracia. Quizás su mejor registro hasta la fecha, la notable mezzo británica exhibe el filo y peso vocal justos, el abandono expresivo y la gama de colores requerida para pintar cada instancia del poema de Mong-Kao-Yen y Wang-Wei. La suya es una contribución soberana, digna heredera de la paradigmática línea de cantantes británicas como Kathleen Ferrier y especialmente, su inmediata antecesora Janet Baker. Hay momentos de sobrecogedora belleza como, por ejemplo, Die Welt schläft ein… invitando al silencio abismal (e inevitable), Der Abschied dar. Er fragte hin wohin er führe, tan estremecedor como Wohin ich gehe, donde su voz pasa imperceptiblemente del caoba al ébano. Y en ese tramado paralelo de música e imágenes, asimismo memorable el solitario aporte de la flauta que evoca a una garza planeando bajo. Sin la más mínima afectación, desde un centro absoluto, ejemplar y equidistante, Connolly es como una antorcha que no se consume, que ilumina, que sin pesimismo trasciende hacia un lugar que sugiere replantearse la habitual visión agorera de la obra. Esta despedida es el canto de una tierra que confiada sonríe al firmamento azul… reverberando en la última palabra Ewig, Ewig… “eternamente, eternamente“…”
Sebastian Spreng, Miami Clasica, 25 October 2013

“Sarah Connolly impresses most, precisely characterising every mood with great purity and beauty of tone.  She here confirms her position as one of today’s great Mahlerians – and as such makes this a very special disc indeed.”
Guy Weatherall, Classical Music (Editor’s Choice), November 2013

“What can there be left to say about Sarah Connolly, whose performances these days are pretty much beyond praise? Her voice is bigger, more dramatic, more adaptable than Coote’s, not perhaps so personal in timbre yet at once human and majestic. You’d have to go back to Christa Ludwig to find the lines dispatched with such secure technique, or to Dame Janet with Haitink for the ultimate in haunting nostalgia.”
David Gutman, Gramophone, December 2013

“Connolly and Spence prove equal to some of the finest exponents on disc in Nezet-Séguin’s youthful account.”
100 Best Records of the Year, The Sunday Times, 08 December 2013

“Le monde évolue et les voix d’hier ne sont pas forcément celles qui nous parlent aujourd’hui. La bénédiction de l’enregistrement de Yannick Nézet-Séguin est le choix de Sarah Connolly, immense chanteuse venue de l’univers baroque et incomparable interprète de Haendel. Connolly ne cède en rien — au contraire ! La surprise grandit lorsqu’on examine dans son ensemble l’enregistrement de Nézet-Séguin et sa portée. Non seulement la cuivrée mais humaine Connolly, aussi tragique mais plus souple que d’autres, est probablement la plus grande mezzo du Chant de la terre documentée depuis Brigitte Fassbänder (Giulini, 1984).”
Le Devoir, December 2013

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