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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Joyce Didonato's "Into the Fire" Does No-One Any Favours

By Norman Lebrecht on August 31, 2018

Joyce DiDonato. (Photo: Pari Dukovic)
An album release of Joyce Didonato at Wigmore Hall recital might have seemed a good idea at the time, but its lack of personality cannot be overlooked. (Photo: Pari Dukovic)

Joyce Didonato: Into the Fire (Erato)

★ (out of five)

A bad album by Joyce Didonato is such a rarity that it warrants serious attention. The release at hand is a live recording of a Wigmore Hall recital just before last Christmas — not so much a recital as a tissue of decorations around a half-hour monologue by Joyce’s favourite composer Jake Heggie, all of them accompanied by string quartet.

The monologue is an evocation of the life of Camille Claudel, model and muse to the sculptor and painter Auguste Rodin. A sculptor herself, Claudel never gets the recognition she possibly deserves and winds up sadly in an asylum. It’s a touching story, to which Heggie’s music adds very little by way of personality.

As for the decorations, five songs by Richard Strauss gain nothing from a boxy new string setting by members of the Brentano Quartet and Debussy’s Trois chansons de Bilitis are definitely not improved by Jake Heggie’s quartet accompaniment. Joyce, in fabulous voice, simply coasts through this odd assortment, adding Strauss’s Morgen and Pochin’s “Silent Night” by way of seasonal encore gifts.

An album release might have seemed a good idea in the glow of a post-concert sherry on a wet West End night. In the cold light of a late August morning, it does no-one any favours.

Joyce Didonato: Into the Fire is available at iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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