United Kingdom Edinburgh International Festival 2015 (5) – Fauré, Liszt, Bartók, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky & Dvořák, Valentinia Nafornița (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano), Queen’s Hall, 12.8.2015. (SRT)Valentinia Nafornița shot to fame when she won Cardiff Singer of the World in 2011. This is her EIF recital debut (she appeared in Fidelio in 2013), and mighty impressive it was. Hers is quite a rich voice, not at all thin, with a hint of luxury around the middle register and at times a touch of huskiness at the top. She also showed a few touches of star quality (a change of frock and hairstyle for the second half, and a winning, if heavily accented, encore of Art is calling for me to round things off) that serve her well.
The sensual colour of her middle register makes her perfect for the alluringly seamless melodies of Fauré but, as her Liszt repeatedly showed, she also has a fantastic technique, with an ability to shade and temper her voice within a single note. I was particularly impressed with the way she invested Bartók’s Hungarian Folksongs with real seriousness and an important touch of universality: these weren’t just snapshots of rural life, but deeply moving insights into the souls of their originators, and the soldier songs, collected by Bartók during the dying years of the First World War, speak movingly of the soldiers’ everyday concerns, as well as their yearning for their homeland.
Sometimes she was a bit too tied to the score, and this robbed her Dvořák Gypsy Songs of some of their spontaneity, but when she let loose she was at her peak, nowhere more so than in Rachmaninov’s Pushkin setting, used in Aleko, where the singer yearns for the Steppes of Georgia, and Nafornița seemed to invest her soul in a deeply moving way.
The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and is available to listen agan here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b064xfj0
The 2015 Edinburgh International Festival runs until Monday 31st August at venues across the city. For full details go to www.eif.co.uk