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Les Chemins d’Amour
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)

Le sommeil; Quelle aventure; La reine de cœur; Ba, be, bi, bo, bu; Les anges musiciens; Le carafon; Lune d’avril; Violon; C’est ainsi que tu es; Dernier poème; Les chemins d’amour
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Chevaux de bois; Beau soir; Fleurs des blés; Rondel chinois; Nuit d’étoiles
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)

Extase; Au pays où se fait la guerre; Chanson triste; Soupir; Le manoir de Rosemonde; Elégie; Phidylé; L’invitation au voyage
Olga Pasiecznik (soprano), Ewa Pobłocka (piano)

Recorded at the National Philharmonic Concert Hall, Warsaw, 5th-6th January and 25th-26th February 2002
CD ACCORD ACD 078-2 [68:13]

We tend to associate Slavonic voices with a vibrant, passionate sound and lots of vibrato. Whether this is really a national characteristic or just a type of vocal training favoured in those parts, there is always the exception to the rule. Olga Pasiecznik (who in any case is actually from the Ukraine though she studied in Poland and is now settled there) seems not to have an especially large voice, and one that is capable at times of an almost virginal purity of emission but is more often warmed and tempered by a fine, well-controlled vibrato which, far from being excessive, attracts and assuages the ear with a violin-like quality. There are occasional hints (not too many) that this is International rather than French French and we don’t have that forward, almost conversational placing of the words which was a feature of the Maggie Teyte manner in this repertoire. Perhaps this was not Pasiecznik’s intention since, while far from negligent of the words, she seems to wish to present each song as a vocal and musical poem, offering a continuous stream of beautiful sound which frankly held me spellbound. In just a few of the Poulenc (not all of them) I might have preferred a little more bite but the Debussy (a far from hackneyed selection) are lovely. I don’t remember ever enjoying the Duparc so much – glorious music but it doesn’t always come across as such.

The success of this recital is no less due to the pianist (by the way, the Polish crossed “Ł” is pronounced like the English “W” so an approximate phonetic spelling of her name would be “Pobwotska”). Ewa Pobłocka has an active solo career to her credit and her recordings include the Bach Partitas, the Chopin Mazurkas and the Fauré Nocturnes. On the strength of her playing here I should be most interested to hear these latter. She has all the technique to encompass the many notes of this music (the Duparc in less sensitive hands, can sound heavily over-written) and not only that, she can absorb them into a luminous and free-flowing texture. She makes not a single sound here which is not rounded, considered and translucently beautiful. Since she also knows how to breathe with the singer it would be difficult to imagine a better duo partnership for this music, in whose hands it wafts in and out of the consciousness as a perfect musical equivalent of Marcel Proust.

This duo must give us more: some Fauré and Chausson as a follow-up to the present collection for a start, and they would surely be ideal interpreters of Szymanowski. And what about the highly attractive songs of Moniuszko, scarcely known outside Poland? It also struck me, as I listened to the gentle, and sometimes passionate, nostalgia of Duparc, that they could be revelatory in John Ireland and I wonder if they have ever considered looking at this repertoire?

The recordings are excellent and the booklet includes full French texts with brief synopses in English and Polish (omitting "Nuit d’Etoiles" by some oversight) plus an essay which offers quite a good analysis of what makes the French song French. In its actual presentation this booklet has a rather modern air, which means odd colours on odd-coloured backgrounds and the text of "Elégie" (a French version of Thomas Moore’s "Oh! breathe not his name") all but disappears under its background photograph, which seems to be taking Proustian evanescence a little too far. The name of the poet of Poulenc’s gorgeous "Les chemins d’amour" is omitted (or did they print it in pale pink on a pale pink background?); it is by Jean Anouilh.

Christopher Howell

The CD ACCORD Catalogue

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