Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Le Sentier sombre
Chanson pour Jeanne
Couplets de Mariette
Que les amants ont de peines
L'invitation au voyage*
Ballade de gros dindons
Villanelle des petits canards
Tes Yeux bleus
Agnès Mellon (soprano), Françoise Tillard (piano)
*François Charruyer (bassoon)
Lied de Banville
Le Soldat du Rio
Pastorale des cochons roses
Adieux … Suzon
Toutes les fleures
Franck Leguérinel (baritone), Françoise Tillard (piano)
Recorded 24-26 February 1997, Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris
TIMPANI 1C1038 [76.54]
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Chabrier is a most appealing composer, who over the years has been somewhat misunderstood because of the popularity of a single work - the orchestral rhapsody España - which has taken an unwarranted proportion of our attention. This interesting disc of songs does something at least to redress that balance.
Chabrier is an appealing melodist and a master of musical wit. Again and again his vocal settings delight the ear with their directness and lyrical charm. Again and again the balance of voice and accompaniment proves to be beautifully judged. Although he does not attempt the kind of delicate word-painting which is the province of masters of French song like Chausson and Debussy, to name but two, his instinct for melody is always sure.
There is no better way of putting these matters to the proof than to hear the opening numbers of this recital. Le Sentier sombre (TRACK 1: 0.00) is really direct in its appeal, ideal in its balance of rhythmic vitality and lyrical flow, and the vocal delivery of Agnès Mellon would be hard to beat. Likewise L'Île heureuse (TRACK 2: 0.00) has a marvellous Gallic charm, the piano subtly abetting the vocal line. Here and throughout the recital the soprano voice of Agnès Mellon is most appealing, her judgement of line and phrasing consistently sure.
The nature of the musical style is not as subtle as we find in Duparc and other masters (see above), and many of the songs feel as though they might be most at home in the context of operetta, an idiom of which Chabrier is a proven master. In this sense it is instructive to compare his setting of Baudelaire's L'invitation au voyage (TRACK 9: 0.00) with that of Duparc. An interesting aspect of the Chabrier setting is his addition of an obbligato bassoon, which here is nicely played by François Charruyer.
This is a mixed voice recital, Mellon's soprano sharing the programme with the baritone of Franck Leguérinel. The latter never lacks in expression and adds a distinctive range to the musical experience. However, his vocal timbre can be uneven, and his wide vibrato leads to moments of unsteadiness. Some listeners will worry more about this than others, so the best option is to be aware of the issue and judge accordingly. The charming Lied de Banville (TRACK 3: 0.00) offers as good an example as any of the songs recorded here, the distinctive title coming from the poet's name; the subject matter is a description of a beautiful girl.
Timpani maintain their high standards of production and presentation, complete with clearly printed texts and translations. The recorded sound is excellent, at once atmospheric, clear and truthful.
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