Listening, one feels the guilt of an interloper intruding on the final parting of two...
Charlotte Gardner 2007
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died of cancer last July, aged 52. The previous year she recorded in concert the Neruda Songs, written for her by her husband. Simultaneously sad and uplifting, you’ll be hard pushed to find a performance to match this one for emotional intensity and ability to move the listener.
The songs are a collection of 5 love sonnets by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-73). Hunt Lieberson’s rich, pure voice, which showed itself over the years to be suited to so many different musical styles and periods, captures the sensuous Flamenco/Blues style perfectly. Particularly powerful is the third sonnet. Quietly, with occasional moments of force, she pleads with her lover “Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because – I don’t know how to say it; a day is too long…”. One can only be left spellbound as the song draws to its close with the voice, in duet with solo oboe, finally giving way to the last sober notes of the orchestra.
This is a last artistic triumph from a great musical partnership, and it seems that the songs soothed them both. Peter Lieberson explains the sonnet "My love, if I die and you don’t" in the following way - 'There is the recognition that no matter how blessed one is with love, there will still be a time when we must part from those we cherish so much. Still, Neruda reminds one that love has not ended...I am so grateful for Neruda’s beautiful poetry, for although these poems were written to another, when I set them I was speaking directly to my own beloved, Lorraine'. His musical setting of that song does indeed reflect that hope, and his wife wrote of the premiere, 'Such a feeling…of joy, happiness and love'.
Listening, one feels the guilt of an interloper intruding on the final parting of two lovers, mixed with a sense of privilege that we have been allowed to share this moment. At just over 30 minutes long, you may not be getting a lot of music for your money, but this is a 'must buy'.