CHANNA MALKIN and IZHAR ELIAS SONGS of LOVE and EXILE, a Sephardic journey
Brilliant Classics 95652, click here to order the CD

Classical vocal art lovers –as is the author of this review - have become familiar with the Sephardic art songs mainly due to the efforts of the late Victoria de los Angeles. The Catalan soprano literally paved the way towards this –up until then pretty neglected- repertoire. Since the release of that legendary De Los Angeles LP loads of LP’s and CD’s appeared covering the Judeo-Spanish repertoire.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor victoria de los angeles sephardic songs (the record which put the Sephardic song repertoire definitely on the market) 

The songs got a ‘classical stamp’ thanks to the arrangements of Joaquin Rodrigo, Alberto Hemsi, Louis Saguer, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and by more recent composers such as Bruce Adolphe, Dany Akiva and Lorenzo Palomo. Regrettably the vocal renditions were often disappointingly mediocre and only a handful of classically trained singers followed in De Los Angeles footsteps.  Moreover most releases are now unavailable so this new release is more than welcome.

It features the Dutch soprano Channa Malkin whom I heard as a sixteen year old Barbarina at the Dutch opera. The little girl has now developed into a full lyric soprano (click here for her Despina). The repertoire selected  includes 13 songs and 6 songs from Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “The divan of Moses-Ibn-Ezra”.

Besides the evergreens such as La rose enflorece (click here) the choices luckily include some lesser known songs as well.  Malkin sings with warmth but also crystalline purity and innate musicianship.
The second Sephardic song record I ever bought was an Israeli LP (1973) with soprano Etty Kan. She was accompanied by guitarist Dany Akiva who paved the way for the guitar accompaniment in the genre.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor etty kan en dany akiva

In fact Danny Akiva is also featured on this CD as two of his arrangements are used (track 2-3). Izhar Elias, the guitarist on the present CD release arranged most of the other songs though. He not only plays with great technical accomplishment but also understanding of the melodic ornamentations.  Just listen to his introduction of La rose enflorece and how he captures the characteristic oriental kaleidoscope of the romanza (track 4) or the Andalusian spirit of “A la una yo naci”(track 12). Elias by the way also recorded Mauro Giuliani's solo guitar arrangement of Rossini's Semiramide. (Click here to listen and see him play Arsace's aria "Ah! Quel giorno")

Another asset is the CD’s booklet which contains all the song texts and personal notes by the performers.  

Click here for the website of Izhar Elias

Click here for the website of Channa Malkin

Rudi van den Bulck, October 2019