Carole Farley showed just how rich and lovely her singing can be. In performance, they were definitely the highlight of the recital. Songs like the lovely Siempre en mi corazón and En una noche así could become mainstream repertoire. Farley's name will inevitably be linked to this composer, for it was she who unearthed his songs from obscurity, and who understood their potential. Her BIS recording, with John Constable, was pitched as low as possible in her register, but here she kept to a more natural range, using the innate sensuality in her voice. The BIS recording has grown on me with time, but I was still surprised to hear how much more attractive the songs sound live. Farley has also developed her approach, as good musicians who "sing from within" do. Constable's talent for improvisation works well with her understanding of the way this music works, and its innate sense of freedom, something beyond traditional classical singing. Lecuona can change direction and rhythm on a pivot, as in a dance: Farley and Constable seem to have absorbed the style so well that it comes instinctively to them. La Camparsa meant a lot to the composer, who named his home after it. Farley explained that, to her, the song evoked a procession coming from a distance out of town and heading into the local plaza. She conveyed this by singing at first with hushed understatement, then unabashed joy, the lower reaches of her voice seeming to glow, "rítmico y sensual, como el amor." In an inspired touch of programming, the concert ended with a return to the discussion of poetry and music that started the evening. Lecuona wrote his own texts, but when he turned to greater poets than himself, his music reached a different level. Canción del amor triste, by the poet Juana de Ibarbouru is true art song, a dramatic showpiece, which Farley's operatic background did full justice to.

Anne Ozorio

Carole Farley at the Wigmore

The distinguished American soprano Carole Farley made her long-awaited Wigmore Hall debut on 1 June with a distinctive programme which may well have been unique in the history of this famous venue. There were no fewer than 28 individual items in her programme, sung in three languages and all from memory; yet, this would not have been so remarkable were it not for the fact that Carole Farley had four different accompanists, and I doubt if more than the merest handful of those songs had ever been heard in Britain before.

This programme was entitled Songs of the Americas and was originally to have had three notable American composers, each accompanying her in their own work. In the event, 81-year-old Ned Rorem, doyen of contemporary American song composers, was suffering from a particularly distressing ear infection and had been forbidden by his doctor to travel by air across the Atlantic. So the programme began with two large-scale Walt Whitman settings by Lowell Liebermann, accompanied by the composer. Next came eight songs by Ned Rorem, accompanied by John Constable, and at once we were in a different world, that of a genuine song composer, utterly responsive to his chosen texts. The second half began with a group of songs by William Bolcom, brilliantly accompanied by the composer at the piano. This wide-ranging selection was compelling and followed by a complete change of mood and genre with three songs by the Argentinian Carlos Guastavino, faultlessly accompanied on the guitar by Fabio Zanon. Finally, John Constable returned to accompany Carole Farley in a winning group of love songs by Ernesto Lecuona, which brought this extraordinary recital to a great close.

Robert Matthew-Walker