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Neruda Songs
Ensemble Detail(s)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano
Label name
Recording year
Conductor details
James Levine

Work Title


…listen enthralled to the late, glorious mezzo-soprano singing the 2005 cycle of Pablo Neruda love songs composed by her husband Peter Lieberson. The word setting is superb, and the Boston Symphony under James Levine drape and colour evocatively. But it’s the voice that takes us to the work’s core: the love that is everlasting, and conquers death.
Geoff Brown, The Times, 1/12/2007

Not, perhaps, since Wagner’s ‘Siegfried Idyll’, written for the birthday of his second wife, Cosima, can marital bliss have been celebrated as movingly as on this poignant disc. Poignant, because the great American mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died of cancer last year at the age of 52. The previous year she had premiered – and, praise be, recorded – five love songs from poems by Pablo Neruda written for her by her husband, the composer Peter Lieberson. Treating such themes as separation and death, they are as universal as they are personal.
Anthony Holden, The Observer, 1/21/2007

This is an almost unbearably poignant gem of a recording on which Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's love sonnets are set to music by composer Peter Lieberson. Written for and performed by the composer's wife, the great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, this was recorded in 2005, a year before the singer's death, aged 52. Happily, the glorious late romantic, but unindulgent, style of the music is a perfect backdrop to the rich tenderness of her voice. Indeed it would take a heart of stone not to be moved by lines such as 'Don't go far off, even for a day.'
Peter Culshaw, Observer Music Monthly, 1/21/2007

The death of the mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson at 52 robbed the world of a unique voice and musician. Her recordings — especially of Handel and Bach — are few but treasurable, and this, her last, from a live performance in Boston in 2005, is especially poignant. Peter Lieberson’s settings of five of Pablo Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets were written in the knowledge that his wife, already ill, might not have long to live. The text of the fifth song — Neruda’s sonnet XCII — opens with the line “My love, if you die and I don’t”, but Lieberson’s music, which combines a Bergian harmonic rigour with Latin-American melodic shapes and instrumentation, doesn’t sound self-pitying. Rather, these songs are an affirmation of the eternal power of love and a deeply felt tribute to a singer endowed with a voice that could move listeners to tears in everything she sang. In 2005, her unmistakable timbre was still glorious and lustrously beautiful, and she sang eloquently in Spanish. With superb playing from James Levine’s Boston Symphony Orchestra, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting memorial to a great and much-missed artist. Five stars
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 1/21/2007

A chance sighting of the collected poems of Pablo Neruda in an airport bookshop led Peter Lieberson to compose this testament to his love for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Recorded a few months before her death, Neruda Songs is a timeless, shimmering, melismatic synthesis of Debussian, Mahlerian and Bergian orchestration. Previously a hesitant composer, Lieberson has found his voice through that of his wife, and through Neruda’s exquisite celebration of physical and spiritual love. In one sense, Neruda Songs will forever belong to Hunt Lieberson, whose performance here is magnetic. Yet this is a work fit to join the canon of the great orchestral song cycles.
Anna Picard, The Independent, 1/14/2007

As archive tapes of her concerts and opera performances are unearthed, recordings of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson will no doubt continue to appear on CD for some time. But there is unlikely to be any more touching testament to her special qualities than this cycle. Hunt Lieberson gave the first performance of her husband Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs in Los Angeles in May 2005, 15 months before her death. The recording, wonderfully balanced, catches every fleck of colour in her passionate, exquisitely musical singing. The five poems from Pablo Neruda's 100 Love Sonnets are wonderfully expressive settings in which the musical worlds of Alban Berg and Manuel de Falla seem to coexist. There's a Spanish warmth about the vocal lines, with the ghost of flamenco here or of blues there, and the voice floating above a perfectly judged orchestral palette. The Neruda Songs are a major and surely lasting addition to the orchestral-song repertory which other mezzos will want to explore; for the moment, they make the best possible memorial to a very great singer.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 1/19/2007

In themselves, they form a highly successful piece. Lieberson’s orchestral writing is both opulent and sensual, highly selective and invariably effective in its use of instrumental colour. Above it soars a magnetic voice, itself varied and colourful, used with outstanding artistry. Each of the five settings is distinctive, while as a unified work the piece works brilliantly. Lieberson has here turned something deeply personal into something of much wider significance. The cycle deserves many more performances. But few will be as good as this.
George Hall, BBC Music Magazine, 2/1/2007

These are, indeed, life-enhancing, uplifting songs, rejoicing in the joys and passions of a love that death cannot destroy. Lieberson wrote memorably singable lines for his wife’s unique voice, and his orchestrations are rich and inventive, evoking the sultry, hot-house atmosphere of Latin-American ardour.
Hugh Canning, International Record Review, 2/1/2007

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