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 Florence Katz (mezzo-soprano) Jean-Francois Gardeil (baritone) Billy Eidl (piano)
 Timpani 1C1051 [68.53]

Little known, a welcome addition to Timpani's extensive collection of Melodies Francaises, and to my ears and mind a major discovery, Guy Sacre (b. 1948) composed 120 songs, carefully respecting the texts in their every inflection in his exemplary vocal writing. His Melodies are in the line of Ravel & Roussel, but also bring to mind sometimes the perceptive catholicity of Britten in his choice of texts and rigorous working out of his material. Sacre is a connoisseur of poetry and his choices selected here include Claudel, Cocteau & Eluard, together with texts by less familiar names such as Georges Schehadé and Léon-Paul Fargue.

Phrases pour eventails (Claudel, 1978) - seven songs in six minutes - are like Japanese fragments, each evoking a significant experience with just a few words and musical phrases. Cocteau provides a series of cameos from Vocabulaire and L'execution, a macabre, surrealist evocation of a death by firing squad. Those of Louis Desnos (1983-85) have a more acerbic tone.

His Schehadé settings (1976 & 1987) introduce the regular themes of childhood and memory, the earlier set full of happiness, the later, with more intense lyricism and daring harmonies, are tinged with the ache of regret for childhood past, 'so much magic for nothing'. A more disturbing childhood memory is treated in 'Black Heart', the adult recall of a mindless act of violence long ago, engendering unresolved remorse. This is the powerful centre of this joint recital, Fargue's prose text set as a narration, somewhat like some of those in Pelleas & Melisande, and here vividly portrayed by J-F Gardeil. Florence Katz is equally persuasive in her share of the programme and the accompaniments by Billy Eidl are sympathetically balanced.

Timpani places all its emphasis on the works themselves; there are no artist biographies. The chosen poems and their musical settings are analysed in an admirable 6-page, close typed essay by Robert Bared, and nothing is spared otherwise in the presentation with full texts and translations and photos of the composer & his interpreters. Sacre's methods are lucid and not at all esoteric and I recommend this CD warmly.

Others awaiting exploration in previous releases of this invaluable series include intégrales of Chabrier, Duparc, Honegger, & Lili Boulanger -

Peter Grahame Woolf

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