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In "Just Listen," The Day's music writers share their playlists of favorite recordings and invite you to share your comments and your playlists. Each blog includes a Spotify playlist of the music in play. You can stream the music, then add your comments in this blog. Spotify is a free music service that you can load onto your computer or wireless device.
Sometimes you just need to immerse yourself in beauty, like a soothing soak in a tub. For me, there's no substitute for the voice – and for composers who understand the power of the voice to touch us as no man-made instrument can.
So in the Spotify playlist at the end of this blog, you'll get to hear some of the tracks that I often apply like a balm.
I open with a favorite track from a favorite recording: Susan Graham's 1998 disc of songs by Reynaldo Hahn (oops, he's French, so we're supposed to call these "chansons"). Hahn wrote these drawing room charmers early in the 20th century, and the track I include, "A Chloris," is quite simply one of my favorite short tracks in all my thousands of discs, No translation needed … you guessed it, it's about love.
Next up is a young kid singing an old masterpiece: 13-year-old American Jackie Evancho sing the aria "Ombra mai fiu" from Handel's 1738 opera "Serse." This is one of Handel's most beloved arias, and I discovered Jackie as a giggly kid on this NPR Tiny Desk Concert (when she was 11!):
This aria has been recorded countless times, but the image of the giggling kid singing this deep material won me over. The studio recording in the track below, with full orchestra, takes some liberties with Handel, but it showcases one amazing kid.
Next, I offer a newly discovered version (by me, at least) of one of the most moving arias of the 20th century "Marietta's Lied," from the opera "Die Tote Stadt," written by the 23-year-old Erich Korngold. Those of you who saw the movie "A Late Quartet" saw the Swedish mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter appear before Christopher Walken to sing this achingly gorgeous song about love and loss. Otter's recordings of this had long been my favorites until I heard this recording by British soprano Kate Royal. There's musical royalty here …
Next is a duet "Nuit d'ivresse" from one of the most honored opera recordings ever made: Colin Davis's uncut, live recording of Berlioz' "Les Troyens," all four hours of it. Davis is the most renowned conductor of anything by Berlioz, but this Act 4 duet between Dido and Aeneas, featuring soprano Michelle DeYoung and tenor Ben Heppner, is probably the most beautiful duet you've never heard.
And we end this playlist with La Stupenda – the late Joan Sutherland – singing the aria of longing "Qui la voce sua soave" from Bellini's "I Puritani." The longing lifts at the end as she revels in coloratura delights of her fabulous, irreplaceable voice. It doesn't get any better than this.