Cherry Ripe

Lance G. Hill
The Classical Music Guide (US)

Those of you who took my advice about acquiring Australian soprano Deborah Riedel's first Melba CD, Power of Love [MR301107], no doubt made the discovery of a magnificent soprano voice unfamiliar to you, one that has the vocal and technical characteristics of Dame Joan Sutherland, almost everyone agrees. Not only is the voice a supreme instrument, but so is the repertoire on the Power of Love disc, Riedel's first solo recording. It was shortly after I discovered this recording that I made contact with Miss Riedel in Australia with some pleasant interchange. I presented a radio tribute in honour of her birth, which brought forth many comments and e-mails from the listening audience. I was also in touch with one of the directors of the Melba label to recommend that Power of Love be quickly followed by a sequel recording. They apparently were pleased not only by my reaction to Power, but by many others. Now, the sequel, Cherry Ripe has been released, a collection of twenty-one tracks of music most of which is largely unknown, in the typical Richard Bonynge fashion of rediscovering truly worthwhile but now forgotten music.

The album name, Cherry Ripe takes its name from a song by London-born composer Charles Edward Horn (1786-1849), who died in Boston, Massachusetts. Here you will find some familiar names among the composers included such as Boyce, Arne, J. C. Bach, Cimarosa, and Grétry. The compositions, however, are largely unknown. From the opening piece by James Hook [1746-1827], who wrote over 2000 songs, we quickly are immersed into the mood of this release with a luscious opener, The Lass of Richmond Hill, paving the way for a most interesting array of styles of vocal writing from England's Victorian and Edwardian periods. Based on the music, this must have been a wonderful time to be living in England—such elegance!

I could comment about each gem on this disc. Suffice to say that if you love beautiful singing, you will find it in abundance here. The songs are replete with ornamentation and embellishments of the period, the use of flutes and orchestral colours that will positively delight anyone who has a passion for the vocal arts.

Richard Bonynge leads the Arcadia Lane Orchestra bringing the sounds of these early periods that we are so well accustomed to hearing from him in the many operas he has conducted and preserved on recordings with his wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne and others. Balances are lifelike, as are the acoustics all providing a recording that has been made with obvious care and attention.

Throughout this recording, I am consistently reminded of the voice of Joan Sutherland at her apex. A product of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, Australia, Deborah Riedel won major singing roles that enabled her to study in Europe. No mention is ever made, that I can verify that Miss Riedel has studied with Joan Sutherland, but if Miss Sutherland has a vocal clone, it would be Miss Riedel who, perhaps, was guided by Richard Bonynge, who did much to bring Sutherland to attention from the beginning of her career. From Riedel's ornamentation to her vocal production, it is as though we are hearing a new Joan Sutherland. It's simply uncanny! I have never heard two voices so alike. There are subtle differences in the voices, of curse, however, the likeness is immediately apparent. Riedel is not new to recordings. She appears on Telarc discs, Harmonia Mundi, and Naxos, all in collaboration with others. It is her solo discs for Melba Recordings, however, that puts her in a class by herself.

Something must be said about the production of the entire production of the Cherry Ripe presentation. Never have I seen such a luxurious gatefold-type CD offering, in full colour, with interesting colour pictures that relate to the music throughout, with full notes and explanations about the composers and music by Richard Bonynge who is a walking encylopedia about music from these periods. No expense was spared in producing this release. Full texts are included, but you won't necessarily need them because Miss Riedel's diction is so clear and pure you can hear and understand every word.

I cannot recall hearing recordings by an artist that have been sheer ear-openers. Both of Riedel's recordings should be staple items in record collections. Five stars on this release, just as was Riedel's first recording, also with Richard Bonynge.