> Vierne Songs [RB]: Classical Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)

Spleens et Détresses (1916)
Quatres Poèmes Grecs (1930)
Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire (1921)
Mireille Delunsch (sop)
Christine Icart (harp) (Grecs)
François Kerdoncuff (piano)
rec 24/26 July 1997, Salle Franklin, Bordeaux, France
TIMPANI 1C1040 [61.30]
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Vierne having carved a 'bread and butter' reputation as an organist and organ composer managed through his very celebrity to occlude his output in other media. As Timpani have definitively demonstrated he is a composer of considerable romantic-impressionist range. Here we have his songs.

Delunsch, the leading female role in Timpani's recording of Ropartz's opera Le Pays, is a secure toned soprano. She is deliciously un-squally; not at all mauled by her operatic forays. She sings with delicacy and breadth to the notes and reminds me of the young Felicity Lott.

What a delight to hear her in Promenade Sentimentale from the cycle Spleens et Détresses, a Verlaine cycle recorded in its orchestral version back in the late 1960s on an Erato LP with the ORTF orchestra conducted by Georges Tzipine (who was the singer on that LP?). The ten song sequence was written in Lausanne where he took refuge with the Vuillemin family after the double tragedy of the death of his son in the Great War and the onset of glaucoma threatening his sight. Marine, the final song is a thudding nightmare tempest of a gallop. The piano writing has the winged quality of Rachmaninov. Speaking of whom, listeners at all curious about these songs are likely to find them attractive if they also appreciate the Rachmaninov songs.

The harp-accompanied Greek Poems are, as expected, deliciously sybaritic, warm and self-absorbed. These are much lighter on the psychological and aural palate than the Verlaine set. Not to be missed. These are to words by Comtesse Anna de Noailles (the very same person who later befriended Ned Rorem during his Paris stay). The Five Baudelaire Poems are darker, dating from the same era as the Verlaine set. What a lovely song is Le Flambeau vivant sounding strangely like Barber's Knoxville. Hearing these songs I wondered if the poems were another great 'might have been' had Holst encountered them. Given Holst's taste for the now desperately unfashionable (still true?) Humbert Wolfe he would probably have found these irresistible for setting. Les Hiboux (The Owls) and Le Flambeau vivant are not that distant from Betelgeuse and the enigmatic Grecian Urn.

A natural next project for Timpani would be to tackle the thirty-six songs he wrote or arranged for voice and orchestra. Timpani have a very strong cadre of singers and I suspect that there are some delightful discoveries to be made and indeed many songs of emotional subtlety and strength.

The disc stands as part of two Timpani series cut horizontally and vertically as it were. The first is their series of Vierne's music. The disc also intersects with their authoritative 'La Mélodie Française' marque.

The sung texts are printed in the booklet alongside an English translation.

Rob Barnett


Spleens et Détresses (1916) (poems by Paul Verlaine):
Dans l'Interminable ennui de la pleine
Un grand sommeil noir
Promenade Sentimentale
À une femme
Le son du cor
Les faux beaux jour

Quatres Poèmes Grecs (1930) (poems by Comtesse Anna de Noailles):
Offrande à Pan
Le Repos
Offrande à Kypris
Chanson pour Avril

Cinq Poèmes de Baudelaire (1921):
Le Flambeau vivant
La Cloche fêlée
Les Hiboux


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