The Edge of Silence: Works for Voice by György Kurtág review – vivid, profound and totally compelling 4 out of 5 stars.

The soprano Susan Narucki has been an unflinching champion of a huge range of contemporary music from both sides of the Atlantic for more than 30 years, but the vocal works of György Kurtág have always had a central place in her repertoire. They have become, she writes: “Essential to the way that I understand music … the heart of my practice as a musician.” Her collection of some of those pieces is based around two of Kurtág’s greatest vocal works, Scenes from a Novel Op 19, on texts by the Russian poet Rimma Dalos, completed in 1982, and the Attila József Fragments Op 20, from the previous year.

It’s music that demands the most scrupulous attention to detail. “Every piece of information on the page is essential” says Narucki, and her performances convey that sense of having overlooked nothing, while always preserving the expressive freedom and intensity that are such a vital part of Kurtág’s writing. As well as the major Dalos and József cycles, Narucki also sings the much more compact group of Dalos settings, Requiem for the Beloved Op 26, which along with the Three Old Inscriptions Op 25, have just piano accompaniment, and are the nearest things here to conventional songs.

The four numbers in Requiem last barely five minutes, yet they map an emotional journey just as vividly as many cycles 10 times as long.

Narucki’s wonderfully subtle shading and control registers each twist and turn in the journeys of every one of these songs. The instrumentalists are equally acute and alert, with Nicholas Tolle’s cimbalom giving a unmistakably Hungarian tang to Scenes from a Novel and In Memory of a Winter Evening Op 8, as well as providing the only accompaniment to the Seven Songs of Op 22. The whole disc provides total immersion in Kurtág’s utterly distinctive world, one in which nothing is taken for granted and even the smallest detail is conferred with profound, totally compelling meaning.


Andrew Clements, The Guardian
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