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Dame Janet Baker - The Great EMI Recordings 20CDs

Label : Warner
Format : Flac (image + cue)
Cover : Yes
Contribution from bruckner13

Although the nickname was a joke, Janet Baker was indeed a rock, of sorts–one of the most consistent, dedicated, and satisfying singers of the later half of the 20th century. She was also unfailingly intelligent, never venturing outside of her Fach, retiring at the right time when still in good voice, and choosing a mix of familiar and less familiar repertoire guaranteed to satisfy fans and critics alike. As a Lieder singer, she had few peers. In opera, she excelled at what might best be called “noble pathos.” No one made the final song of Elgar’s Sea Pictures sound less like “Hello, Dolly!” Her Mahler is rightly revered, as is her French repertoire, from Berlioz to Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Chausson.

Although not a period performance specialist, Baker’s contributions in the baroque and early music repertoire (Monteverdi, Bach, Scarlatti, Handel, Schütz, Dowland, Stölzel) are extensive and remain valid based on her sheer artistry and unfailing emotional truthfulness. Particularly special are her Liszt Lieder, repertoire still too rarely performed, and her Haydn Scottish folksongs (sound clip), which reveal her ability to relax and have some fun without lowering her standards. OK, her English songs are less interesting on account of their quality, relatively speaking, and “Songs for Sunday” can’t help but ooze Victorian sentimentality, but Baker’s earnestness is never for a moment in doubt.

That said, this set could have been better put together. Twenty discs is a lot of material, and although Baker’s fans may want every scrap that she recorded, “The Great EMI Recordings” suggests more in the way of discernment than a miscellaneous grab-bag of legitimate recital programs mixed with Baker’s contributions, however minor, to larger works (for example Bach’s B minor Mass and Magnificat, The Damnation of Faust, Elijah, The Dream of Gerontius) some of which may not be “Great EMI Recordings” at all. Baker’s mere presence is not an automatic guarantee of “greatness,” though it never hurts.

Still, this imposing set does confirm Baker’s enduring legacy, and at the price no one is forcing you to listen to the less felicitously chosen selections. On the whole, it remains a worthy tribute to a great artist.

Complete tracklist : Dame Janet Baker – The Great EMI Recordings

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