As crazy as it may sound, Barbra Streisand was not half bad in singing art song.
Sony Masterworks is reissuing an album that simply says Classical and Barbra, first released in 1976, but recorded in 1973.
Included in this reissue are two previously unpublished Lieder by Franz Schubert: “An Sylvia” and “Auf dem wasser zu singen,” with piano accompaniment by Claus Ogerman. He conducts the Columbia Symphony Orchestra on the rest of the album.
Streisand wraps her voice around mélodies by Claude Debussy, Joseph Canteloube and Gabriel Fauré with ease and a natural ultra-smooth French legato. Her diction, the occasional escaped diphthong notwithstanding, is great.
German and Italian songs and arias fare a bit less well, as Streisand’s interpretations have over-smooth edges and a general lassitude that sounds Valium-induced. But the odd taste of Yiddish-inflected German is kinda cute.
Ogerman’s orchestrations are tasteful.
Note that this is a pop-length effort, featuring the standard dozen tracks and about a half-hour of music.
This album is probably one of the best crossover productions I’ve ever encountered. Nothing seems forced or out of place. It seems strange that this album disappeared into one of those voids on which only devoted enthusiasts hold vigil.
The back cover of the album comes with an endorsement by Leonard Bernstein that is far more honest than most blurbs:
“Barbra Streisand’s natural ability to make music takes her over to the classical field with extraordinary ease. It’s clear that she loves these songs. In her sensitive, straightforward, and enormously appealing performance, she has given us a very special musical experience.”
For more on this album, click here.
For comparison’s sake, here are two divas singing Claude Debussy’s “Beau soir:” Streisand, followed by Renée Fleming: