03 BreatheBreathe
Hera Hyesang Park; Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice; Jochen Rieder
Deutsche Grammophon 486 4627 (deutschegrammophon.com/en/artists/hera-hyesang-park)

Can profound fear be experienced – and expressed – with quintessence of beauty? In theory, probably not. Yet every aspect of this disc does exactly this. The prescient repertoire on Breathe paves the way. The real reason, of course, is an inspired performance by rising-star lyric soprano Hera Hyesang Park. The utter luminosity of her voice, and deep digging into songs, brings special grace to words, and extraordinary lyricism to vocalise and rhapsodising about the exposition of both the literal and metaphorical beauty of fearfulness.

The act of making breath not simply a gesture of release, but an artistic device is what we – in turn – experience throughout this extraordinary disc. Park delves into the work of a group of composers from the 19th and 20th centuries, exploring their work as part of a bleak, Impressionistic backdrop for the horrors of the global pandemic and the isolation that it inflicted on humanity. In doing so she imbues songs, and their significance, with near-spiritual fervour in the context of the pandemic.

Should familiarity of repertoire be an indicator, then the Lento e Largo movements of Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is the apogee of this recording. But the Evening Prayer from Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel and the Flower Duet from Delibes’ Lakmé are also sensational. 

So deeply does Park embody this material that she lives the songs rather than projecting them as outside entities of breathing. Everything about this disc declares: A minor miracle.

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