> Walloon Folk Songs Bastin [RF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Jules BASTIN (bass) (-1996)
'Airs folkloriques walloons'

Songs and Carols from France, Germany, Ireland, etc. sung in the Walloon language.
François Prume choir, dir. Raymond Micha (also piano)
'La Petite Orchestre/François Duysinx
Rec. Abbaye de Stavelot, 1971 & 1977


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If you see this title in a catalogue, issue list or even when browsing, you would probably pass it by. You shouldn't. The front gives only the title and a picture of the singer, while the track listing on the back of the jewel case wouldn't exactly grab you; it's not quite French and certainly not Flemish or German. In fact, like the songs, it is Walloon, the largely lapsed language of Southern Belgium and adjacent France. Only those knowing the singer might be tempted; others would lose out for this is a really delightful disc.

Jules Bastin took the song prize at the Royal Conservatory Brussels in 1958 and the opera prize the following year. In 1960, he joined 'La Monnaie' and by the early 1970s had established an international reputation. He was chosen by Colin Davis to appear in his groundbreaking cycle of Berlioz operas, especially as Mephisto in La Damnation de Faust. He made debuts at the Paris Opera in 1975 and in 1976 at La Scala, The Met., Covent Garden (Ochs) and Saltzburg under Karajan. On opera recordings Bastin is generally found as the second bass; Leone to Raimondi's Attila, the first Nazareen to his compatriot José van Dam's two recordings of Jokanaan (Salomé). However, he is an appealing Alfonso on Erato's Cosi Fan Tutte that features Kiri Te Kanawa's outstanding Fiordiligi and Frederica von Stade's Dorabella (4509 98494, 3 discs, mid-price). He is also to be heard as Bartolo on Karajan's second recording of Marriage of Figaro.

This disc, derived from sessions in 1971 and 1977, is a homage to Bastin's parents and Walloon heritage. Its varied contents include seven Christmas items, airs and songs from France, Germany and Ireland. Track 1, an arrangement of the carol Holy Night, to the music of Adam, sets the standard of the disc. Bastin's lean bass, is sonorous without being lugubrious. He sings in perfect pitch, with good diction and is able to lighten his tone without loss of expression or colour. Given Bastin's natural eloquence of phrasing and good breath control, my ear and sensibilities were well satisfied and I have enjoyed the disc several times since my first hearing. Thoroughly recommended and at a very modest price.

The recording is slightly resonant with the voice set in an airy unconstricted acoustic. The accompanying choir is sometimes caught rather harshly.

The brief notes and biography are in French only.

Robert J Farr


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