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CD: Crotchet

Mirages - Mélodies
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845–1924)
L’Horizon Chimérique (Jean de la Ville Mirremont) Op. 118 (1921)
1. La me rest infinite [1:33]
2. Je me suis embarqué [2:25]
3. Diane, Séléné [2:21]
4. Vaisseaux, nous vous aurons aimés [2:04]
Poême d’un jour (Charles Grandmougin) Op. 21 (1878)
5. Rencontre [2:04]
6. Toujours [1:15]
7. Adieu [2:33]
Francis POULENC (1899–1963)
Tel jour telle nuit (Paul Eluard) (1936-37)
8. Bonne journée [2:29]
9. Une ruine coquille vide [2:09]
10. Drapeau perdu [1:05]
11. Une roulette couverte en tuiles [1:09]
12. A toutes brides [0:41]
13. Une herbe pauvre [1:48]
14. Je n’ai envie que de t’aimer [0:57]
15. Figure de force [1:37]
16. Nous avons fait la nuit [3:23]
Chansons villageoises (Maurice Fombeure) (1942)
17. Chansons du clair tamis [0:52]
18. Les gars qui vont à la fête [1:29]
19. C’est le joli printemps [2:46]
20. Le mendicant [3:40]
21. Chanson de la fille frivole [0:48]
22. Le retour du sergent [1:44]
La Fraicheur et le Feu (Paul Eluard) FP 117 (1950)
23. Rayon des yeux [1:11]
24. Le matin les branches attisent [0:44]
25. Tout disparut [1:45]
26. Dans les ténébres du jardin [0:28]
27. Unis la fraicheur et le feu [1:23]
28. Homme au sourire tendre [1:44]
29. La grande rivière qui va [0:58]
Gabriel FAURÉ
Mirages (Baronne Antoine de Brimont) Op. 113 (1919)
30. Cygne sur l’eau [3:30]
31. Reflets dans l’eau [4:29]
32. Jardin nocturne [2:53]
33. Danseuse [2:08]
Thomas Oliemans (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. June 2008, Akademiezaal St. Truiden, Belgium. ADD
Texts and English translations enclosed
ETCETERA KTC1366 [62:04]
Experience Classicsonline

Fauré and Poulenc were two of the most important French song composers but they had very little in common. Poulenc even said that for him Fauré’s music was almost physically unbearable. While Fauré was no barnstormer Poulenc was exactly that, member of the avant-garde group Les Six and a lot of his early music is irreverent and ironic. But he had a serious side as well and his choral music is often deeply felt. Most of the songs on this disc are also in that vein, though they are far from introverted. This also goes for the Fauré songs, even though Mirages shows him at his most inward, sparing and dreamy. Together they form a marvellous hour of some of the best, but rather unhackneyed, French songs predominantly from the last century.
This is one reason to buy this disc but an even greater reason is the way the songs are performed. I was astonished from the very first bars of the first song and this impression remained all through the programme. On this hearing Thomas Oliemans stands out as the best singer of Mélodies since Gérard Souzay. He has a timbre that isn’t unlike the older master’s and he has all the means of expression to make these songs come alive. He possesses the lightness of the traditional baryton-martin but his is a true baritone, blackish in the deeper end of the register and with a brilliant and powerful top. His soft singing is marvellously assured, with beautiful pianissimos and a flexibility of voice colour that allows him to express all the nuances of this music.
He demonstrates all this in Diane, Séléné (tr. 3). Toujours (tr. 6) is impressively intense while the next track Adieu is so beautifully caressing. His rhythmic acuity is put to test in Poulenc’s Drapeau perdu (tr. 10) and the first two songs of Chansons villageoises (trs. 17-18) and he negotiates the intricacies effortlessly. His sense of line phrase is unerring and he is a convincing communicator and story-teller. Just listen to track 20, where he draws a lively portrait of Jean Martin, the beggar. Oliemans is Dutch but his French seems impeccable, which is a necessity in this repertoire. In every respect he is the natural heir to Souzay – and we have been waiting for quite some time for someone to fill the vacuum his death created. Souzay recorded all the Fauré cycles on this disc but unfortunately I didn’t have access to his recordings. Having admired him since I first found my way to Lieder and Mélodies in the 1960s I can anyway hear his characteristic voice and inflexions in my mind’s ear. Thomas Oliemans is cut out to pass on that treasured tradition.
The name Malcolm Martineau as accompanist has for many years been synonymous with unerring precision and flexibility. To carry the parallel with Souzay one step further, he can be regarded as the Dalton Baldwin of the present century. His contribution to this disc is invaluable.
I have intentionally focused on the singer rather than the repertoire, fascinating though it is. And for good reason, since I am convinced that this is a Lieder and Mélodies artist of rare talent. I would urge readers with an interest in singing to invest in this issue. Besides readings of immense insight and vocal excellence you will get wonderful songs that are likely to be lifelong favourites in the bargain.
Göran Forsling


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