The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (115): Streisand sings Debussy

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (115): Streisand sings Debussy


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2020

Better than Sting in Dowland?



  • V. Lind says:

    It’s probably the best entry on that album, so well-chosen — it’s not dire. Some of the other pieces are — she lapses into showbiz timbre on the Fauré Pavane (Vocalise) and rushes the Lascio Ch’io Pianga.

    She has a wonderful voice for what she usually does, and it is a voice that might well have been trained for classical if she had chosen to go that route. But she didn’t…

    • Capitalist - Realist says:

      Turning away from classical music is precisely why she is an ICON as opposed to an obscure “opera star” virtually nobody listens to and who will NEVER achieve the same FINANCIAL heights!

      The opera community simply doesn’t offer comparable opportunities via standard operatic stage performances.

      They are too self-absorbed and had gradually stopped supporting their singers as they used to. Record labels did but that is no longer along with agent support on the whole.

      Artists must always break away from opera houses and perform public and private concerts. THAT’S where the $$$ is!!

      And folks blindly wonder why ‘opera is dying’…so quaint.

      Fortunately we’re at a point in society where opera houses and their liberalism are on the cusp of being abandoned as they financially implode leaving virtual, individual needs as the focus. The new “college educated” set doesn’t care about opera and looks down on it since they were taught to hate anything ‘white’. It’s a very exciting time!

      • Gregory B. Mowery says:

        Appalling and about as strange an explanation as I’ve ever read. Streisand dabbled in classical singing because she could manage to sing this music with some some ability. More importantly, she was such a massive star, she could sing whatever she liked. The album probably made money over the years. Her record label indulged their star. It is a curiosity and not much else.

      • mikhado says:

        Not everything is a left-wing conspiracy, you know.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It is atrocious.Even worse than Sting.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Well, Glenn Gould loved her Bach…

    • Glenn Gould described Streisand’s voice as “one of the natural wonders of the age” and later he called her “probably the greatest singing-actress since Maria Callas”. He even offered to work with her on a second classical album, for which he suggested songs by Dowland and Musorgsky. He contacted Streisand’s representatives directly, without results.

  • when this recording was first released I was a student at Juilliard and Martin Isepp, who was teaching there at the time said: How can anything so right sound so wrong.”

  • annnon says:

    Tee hee even Renée Fleming just gets a piano accompaniment, whereas Barbra gets the full orchestral treatment:

    Streisand’s diction is infinitely clearer (why do opera singers insist on muddying everything up with their exaggerated vowels and vibratos when singing a simple song?).

    Too bad Streisand never did the Bachianas Brasileiras 5. She would’ve been good!

    • Schoenberglover says:

      I think it’s just Renée Fleming, not all opera singers. Wonderful voice but she’s not know for clear diction.

    • psq says:

      There are/were many opera singers with atrocious diction, even worse than Fleming, mostly because they swallowed the consonants.

      I have sat in a couple of Master Classes of the Voice and Opera Coach Mikael Eliasen of the Curtis Institute. He reminded the participants that there are 3 things one must never forget about opera singing, “It is legato, legato, and legato!”

      The opera singers with bad dictions are/were probably too afraid that enunciating clear consonants disrupts the legato line because the action does block the air flow momentarily. La Stupenda Joan Sutherland never saw a consonant that she cannot swallow.

      However, excellent examples of good legato and good diction going superbly well together are Callas, Pavarotti, …..

  • Gustavo says:

    That is beneath the comfort zone.

  • E says:

    Beau Soir

    Lorsque au soleil couchant les rivières sont rose,
    Et qu’un tiede frisson court sur les champs de blé
    Un conseil d’être heureux semble de sortir des choses
    Et monter vers le coeur troublé;

    Un conseil de goûter les charmes d’être au monde
    Cependant qu’on est jeune et que le soir est beau,
    Car nous nous en allons, comme s’en va cette onde:
    Elle à la mer — nous au tombeau!
    Paul Bourget

    Beautiful Evening

    When at sunset the rivers are pink
    And a warm breeze ripples the fields of wheat,
    All things seem to advise content –
    And rise towrds the troubled heart;

    Advise us to savour the gift of life,
    While we are young and the evening fair,
    For our life slips by, as that river does:
    It to the sea – we to the tomb.

    Translation copyright Richard Stokes, from A French Song Companion (Oxford 200)

    • clarrieu says:

      Hey, no harm, but you could have bothered to check the spelling of the first three verses:
      “Lorsque au soleil couchant les rivières sont roses,
      Et qu’un tiède frisson court sur les champs de blé,
      Un conseil d’être heureux semble sortir des choses..”

  • AndrewB says:

    I have always been quite fond of this crossover album. Be aware the great Barbara was singing to a pre – recorded backing track and you can hear that sometimes in the editing – unless they have cleaned up later pressings? I think the most successful tracks are from Songs of the Auvergne because of the folk like style of the music , but Schumann’s Mondnacht has an intimate atmosphere in her transposed low key version. Faure ‘Apres un reve ‘ overshoots the mark for me becoming closer to a torch song or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg here , but over all a relaxing , different sort of an evening listening experience with a glass of wine in hand!

  • clarrieu says:

    Well, it would have been more appropriate to transform Debussy’s stuff into a new song, like Larry Clinton did with this piano piece “Reverie”, resulting in this hit “My Reverie”, which was to be covered by many jazz stars:
    As much as I love Streisand and prefer her over Sting any day, she just destroys the delicate mood of this exquisite music, not to mention her terrible french.

  • Nick says:

    A 100% born great talent. I wish she had 1% of intelligence in addition to 100% talent. But The Nature must have a rest too. It rested on Streisand’s intelligence.

  • fred says:

    A fabulous album (and this from a die-heart opera fan), beau soir is indeed one of the best items on the disc

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I detested that album when it was new perhaps because the local classical radio station insisted on playing parts of it so often.

    But I was quite the purist snob back then and didn’t care for genuine jazz either, much less “crossover” stuff of which there seemed to be quite a bit at the time (and now of course the floodgates are opened). I’d like to think I am mellowed with age. There’s gotta be SOME benefit to age.

    I still prefer hearing it played by Jascha Heifetz than in any vocal version (well, OK, I am a purist snob but of a certain bias), but then you miss out on that jolting reference to death and the tomb at the close. Streisand actually sounds like she knows what she’s singing about and that cannot be said of everyone who records French songs.

    And the orchestration (is it by the conductor, Claus Ogerman?) even by sticking to Debussy’s chords does seem to introduce foretastes of Messien’s L’ Ascension in the opening. To my ears at least.

  • Rafaela Anshel says:

    Always beautiful singing and music you bring to the world. So much courage in exploring various music genres and you are successful.

  • fliszt says:

    Give the woman credit for challenging herself, and for offering her fans something of quality to expand their horizons. This is in fact by far the best selling lieder album of all time, even though it’s the worst selling Streisand album. Millions of people heard this repertoire for the first time thanks to Streisand, so perhaps some new fans to classical music were picked up along the way. I’m not about to throw away my Elly Ameling discs, but this Streisand album serves an important purpose.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I love Streisand’s singing on this.
    The arrangement is a bit too much, but the vocalism is beautiful.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here is the real thing:

    Teyte, in her younger years, worked with Debussy himself. Notice the absence of sentimentality, and intense expression, giving the impression of improvisation while following the score very precisely.

    Who needs a cross-over singer who wants her image be polished-up a bit with ‘classical’?

  • Nomi says:

    Unlike any other Streisand album that have been produced before… “Classical Barbra” was “gummed to pieces”… They simply could not get a complete version of each song or even a quarter of a complete version… There are stories of people in an engineer room with what looked like rows and rows of tape So. take one could be spliced in to take 17 and then we can go to take 20 … was that bad And a decade before digital ….I remember my voice teacher saying… “The odd thing in all these recordings is how small her voice sounds…I always thought the voice was big”

  • Dennis says:

    14 the first time I heard it. I’d never had the opportunity to listen to classical music. This to me was the most beautiful music. I didn’t understand the lyrics. I only spoke English.

    Barbra Streisand introduced me to a wide variety of music, over the years, not all of which I would like. But I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the extraordinary vocal gift she poses each and every time she tried something new..

    I’ve had the opportunity to see her perform live several times as well in her later years. I thought it impossible but she sounds even better live. The instrument is still intact and she is still in full command of it.

    Her execution may not meet the standards of purists but her impact on expanding the audience for a genre not fully embraced by the general public should not be dismissed.

    I listened to “the real thing” linked above and had that been the version I had originally heard instead of Barbra Streisand my exploration would have ended then and there. We’re it not for Barbra Streisand I would never have heard Maria Callas. Two very distinct massively gifted artists. I love them both.