> Melodies Francais [IL]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Compilation: Mélodies Français
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Le pas d誕rmes du Roi Jean
(Victor Hugo)
Danse macabre

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
La mer est infinie
Je me suis embarqué
Diane, Séléné
Vaisseaux, nous vous aurons aimés

Pierre Vellons (1889-1939)
Épitaphe d置ne femme
Épitaphe d置ne dévote
Épitaphe d置n paresseux
Épitaphe de Scarron
Épitaphe d置n médecin

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Poèmes de Paul Morand

Chanson romanesque (à R. Couzinou)
Chanson épique (à Martial Singher)
Chanson à boire (à Roger Bourdin)
Guy Ropartz (1864-1955)
Quatre poèmes d誕prés l段ntermezzo de Heinriche Heine
Tendrement enlacés
Pourquois vois-je pâlir
Ceux qui parmi les morts
Depuis que nul rayon

Jean Françaix (b. 1912)
Huit anécdotes de Chamfort (à Roland-Manuel)
Lévêque d但utun
Les coups de pieds
Le critique
Le cauchemar
Les cinq doigts
Le magistrat suisse
De quelques Français
Le chanoine Recupero

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte (à Fedor Chaliapine)
Poèmes de Ronsard
Chanson de départ
Chanson à Dulcinée
Chanson du Duc
Chanson de la mort de Don Quichotte

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Le Bestiaire (G. Appollinaire)
Le dromadaire
Le chèvre du Tibet
La sauterelle
Le Dauphin
La carpe

Chansons gaillardes (à Mme. Fernand Allard)
Textes anonymes du XVII siècle
La maîtresse volage
Chanson à boire
Invocation aux Parques
Couplet bacchiques
La belle jeunesse

Jules Bastin (bass) with Paule van den Driessche (piano)
(recorded at the Conservatoire Royal de Liege in 1995)

PAVANE ADW 7335 [74:35]


Experience Classicsonline

Pavane are to be congratulated on such a delightful and adventurous French song recital distinguished by Jules Bastin痴 strong oaken tones blended with the accomplished, supple and subtle accompaniments of Paule Van den Driessche. Bastin colours his voice convincingly and imaginatively over a wide expressive range from the romantic and plaintive to the commanding and swaggering and from lovelorn whispers to robust wry humour. It is a great pity that the parsimonious notes one and one third pages in English to cover 44 songs mars this otherwise admirable compilation. I will grouse some more about this further down because I believe it is an important point of principle.

The recital begins with two favourite songs by Saint-Saëns. The first, The Tournament of King John, is the longest in the whole compilation and one is full of wonder when recollecting that this rousing song was composed when Saint-Saëns was only 17. Bastin enters into the spirit of its OTT heroics, giving it all the wry bravado of a Hollywood Errol Flynn romantic swashbuckler. Then there is Saint-Saëns' chanson version of his Danse Macabre with its zig-a-zig-a-zigs and clanking skeletons cavorting at midnight round two naked illicit lovers with Bastin unhesitatingly milking all its melodrama.

The delicacy and beautiful refinement of the Fauré songs come next about the vastness of the sea and embarkation and parting with subtle sea swells in the piano. Bastin痴 sensitive readings finely balance restraint and passion. From romance we pass to comedy with the wickedly funny and ironic evocations of Pierre Vellons痴 five epitaphs. Eight brief but penetrating and often comic sardonic vignettes come from the pen of Jean Français: Le critique, for instance, is wittily picky and condescending, and Le magistrat suisse pompous and swaggering.

One of the most interesting and impressive collections is Guy Ropartz痴 Heine settings. Of these Pourquoi vois-je pâlir impresses most strongly with Bastin rising from the plaintive to the passionate paralleled by expressive keyboard playing progressing from a languid subtly perfumed evocation of the rose to the dejection of the Dies Irae quotation, and to defiance before both pianist and singer end in sad resignation. These four songs have a preoccupation with death but they are never morbid and I must mention the imaginative treatment of the mix of the funeral march and Dies Irae in the accompaniment to Depuis que nul rayon.

When G.W. Pabst filmed Don Quixote in 1932 he planned to have the great bass Chaliapine play the part, and to sing to texts written by Paul Morand. Several composers were approached including Manuel de Falla, Ravel, Ibert and Milhaud but only two of them actually worked on the project. Ravel痴 work was not used. Here we have the opportunity of hearing the successful music of Ibert and that of Ravel. The Ravel songs Don Quixotte à Dulcinée are the more subtle, the Chanson romanesque has the odd nicely placed comic dissonance to suggest the antics of the ageing suitor, and Chanson épique mixes the plaintive with rather weary heroics; while Chanson à bois has a comic swagger with one or two telling hiccups in the accompaniment. Ibert痴 songs have a more overt Spanish flavour and immediacy that would probably have had greater audience appeal. The only Chanson à Dulcinée of the four has Quixote痴 romantic aspirations more straightforwardly pronounced.

The recital ends with the two sets of Poulenc songs. The first set is another lot of comic and keenly observed animal evocations: Le dromadaire, for instance, is clearly the trudging drudge of the desert, and the complex pattern of the gait of Le chèvre du Tibet is cleverly caught. From Chansons gaillardes, I would just mention the typical Poulenc insouciance in Madrigal and the gently lilting of Sérénade enlivened by its sardonic edge.

But back to my grouse. If record companies like Hyperion and, often, even the super budget Naxos, can provide words for songs, there is really no excuse for such niggardly booklet presentations as this. There is hardly any description of any of the songs, just the briefest of texts on the composers and the authors of the song settings. One might argue if the words are really necessary? Well, yes they are needed to have a proper appreciation of the subtleties and nuances of the songs. Or it might be argued that with a bit of enterprise one might track down the words [and hopefully(?)] the translations from internet sources but really who wants to spend hours doing this, or rummaging through music libraries (even assuming you live near an adequate one). The least that Pavane (and other record companies for this criticism is not just levelled at Pavane) could do would be to create a website with all the songs words and their translations into main languages, with a note in a prominent place on the album so that their customers are directed to that web site. But it really only applies to people who have computers and internet connections. What about the many others who do not have such facilities? High time the record companies got their act together and I have in my sights the majors who think they can get away with murder when they reissue back catalogue material even operas with no words, not even an adequate synopsis - at mid-price this is unforgivable.

Ian Lace


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