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Elina Garanca

Elīna Garanča - When night falls ...

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02/09/2024

Full of ambivalent sensations, colours and shades, night-time has long been special to Elīna Garanča. “For some people, the night can be full of fear and uncertainty. It’s a time when you’re alone and confronted with yourself,” she says. And yet it can also bring peace. “The world calms down and falls asleep, and we humans can find calm as well.” Garanča’s new Deutsche Grammophon album, When Night Falls …, set for release on World Sleep Day (15 March 2024), embraces all these nuances, reflecting the night from twilight to the darkness of the early hours, in songs with orchestral, chamber or solo-instrument accompaniment. The mezzo-soprano has chosen her selection of pieces with a view to conjuring “that time of day when you withdraw from the world, come home, close the door and focus exclusively on your own life, in a safe environment”.

This is the guiding thought behind the dramatic arc of When Night Falls … The album takes listeners from the rich colours of sunset, a time when the hustle and bustle of the day may still be reverberating, to the intimacy and silence of the night. It opens with three works for voice and orchestra – Richard Strauss’s Wiegenlied (“Lullaby”: “Träume, träume, du mein süßes Leben” – “Dream, dream, you sweet life of mine”), Falla’s Asturiana and the Abendsegen, or “Evening Prayer”, from Humperdinck’s opera Hänsel und Gretel, in which Garanča sings both parts, thanks to overdubbing, which she calls a “fascinating experiment”. The singer is accompanied in all three by the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, conducted by Karel Mark Chichon.

Garanča also performs a number of songs with a chamber ensemble. In two of Berio’s Folk Songs she is accompanied by the Berlin Music Ensemble, while for Brahms’s Wiegenlied (“Guten Abend, gut’ Nacht” – “Good evening, good night”) she is joined by oboist Albrecht Mayer and pianist Malcolm Martineau, who accompanies several other pieces as well, including Schubert’s Nacht und Träume.

Elsewhere on the album, the guitar provides a beautifully complementary partner to Garanča’s vocal line. Recent DG signing Raphaël Feuillâtre accompanies her in Tosti’s Sogno (“Dream”), while José María Gallardo del Rey joins her in two lullabies of his own composition (Nana Criolla and Canción de cuna) and in Montsalvatge’s Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito. “The guitar has a wonderfully feminine, warm, rounded sound,” says Garanča. “There are fascinating parallels with the mezzo voice, especially in its vibrant middle registers.” The intimate atmosphere created by the interplay between voice and solo instrument provides her with the opportunity to sing “completely naturally and directly”. “These songs touch your heart as if your own mother were singing to you,” she adds. “They’re pure, honest and deeply human.”

One very special aspect of When Night Falls … is that it presents Elīna Garanča’s first ever recordings of music from her homeland. “My Latvian identity simply had to be part of such an intimate, personal programme,” explains the artist. As well as performing Alfrēds Kalniņš’ Aijajā! (“Rock-a-bye!”) and Şūpļa dziesma (“Lullaby”), and Jānis Zālīts’ Pelīt, velc miedziņu (“Mousie, bring a dream”), she includes the folk song Aijā, žūžū, lāča bērni (“Hush-a-bye, hush, little bear cubs”), which instantly transports her back to her childhood. “I first heard it sung by my grandmother, so whenever I hear the song it’s like going back in time to falling asleep in bed at her house. I don’t think there’s a single person in Latvia who doesn’t know this song, and I really wanted to include it here.” Just as well known in her native country are the songs of Raimonds Pauls, whom Garanča calls a “legend” and “master of melody”. She sings three of his songs on When Night Falls …, accompanied on the piano by Pauls himself.

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