CD review: Barbara Hannigan’s Crazy Girl Crazy

First published in the Guardian on 14 September, 2017

Crazy Girl Crazy
Barbara Hannigan/Ludwig Orchestra (Alpha)

Canadian soprano opens this album with a reminder, in no shy terms, of what a stupidly seductive vocalist she is. She flits and warbles and giggles through Berio’s high-wire Sequenza III from 1965; she has a way of making everything just float. The novelty of this release is that it is Hannigan’s first as a conductor as well as a singer, and though her fierce musicianship is never in doubt – she cooly leads the Amsterdam-based Ludwig Ensemble through Alban Berg’s tough Lulu Suite and Gershwin’s Girl Crazy (in a new suite arranged by Bill Elliott) – the ensemble playing doesn’t match the rapture and agility of her voice. That would be a tall order. Even in the Gershwin, which to my ears doesn’t suit her as well as previous recordings of Satie, Abrahamsen or Benjamin (it needs more bulk, less shimmer), her effortless style is bewitching.