> Canteloube - Fauré [TH]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joseph CANTELOUBE (1897-1957)
Songs of the Auvergne (selection)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1854-1924)

Pavane Op. 50
Masques et Bergamasques Suite Op.112

Jill Gomez (soprano)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Canteloube)
London Philharmonic Orchestra (Fauré)
Vernon Handley
Recorded at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, January 1985 (Canteloube)
Barking Town Hall, November 1974 (Fauré)
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 575 1382 [66.36]


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Although Canteloube’s collection of the Songs of the Auvergne is well represented in the record catalogue (including some versions of the complete series), this present selection by Jill Gomez and Vernon Handley was received well from the start. Indeed, on its re-release at mid-price some years ago, it received the famous (if sometimes a little over-generous) rosette, the ultimate critical accolade, from The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs. Listening to the disc now in its new budget reincarnation on CFP (and with generous filler), it’s difficult to disagree with the guide’s verdict. They found that Gomez’s selection of these increasingly popular songs made for a ‘memorably characterful record which, as well as bringing out the sensuous beauty of Canteloube’s arrangements, keeps reminding us, in the echoes of rustic band music, of the genuine folk base’. They concluded that this was the ideal purchase for anyone who wants just a selection.

Gomez’s richly idiomatic approach to these delightful songs is undoubtedly very seductive, especially when the accompaniments by Handley and the RLPO are so warmly supportive and EMI’s digital sound (beautifully produced by Andrew Keener) so opulent and detailed. Her account of the most famous number, Baïlero, could be amongst the most relaxed on record, yet she sustains its repetitions with an intimate, gentle beauty of line, supported by particularly sensitive wind playing that almost seems to hang in the air. The heady exoticism of Canteloube’s orchestration is, throughout, admirably realised by the players; the long oboe solo that starts Ound’ onoren gorda? (Where shall we go and graze?), and which has strange echoes of the slow movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, is marvellously characterised by the RLPO principal. Some of the brighter, more obviously folksy numbers, such as L’oio de rotso (Spring water), may lose a little of their rustic sharpness when compared to, say, Victoria de los Angeles’s classic account, but there is no doubting that the overall effect of Gomez’s version is very appealing indeed.

The two Fauré items come from over a decade earlier and are analogue, though still very vividly recorded (this time by the estimable John Boyden). It’s doubtful whether you would purchase the disc for these particular pieces, and there are many rival all-Fauré discs that are very recommendable, but they make excellent and appropriate companions to the Canteloube. Handley has always been a conductor sensitive to colour and atmosphere, and though he tends to play both pieces ‘straight’ and in a refreshingly unindulgent manner, he teases out details and underlines certain phrasing with skilful subtlety. The end results are two satisfying readings that complement the main fare very nicely.

The notes are brief but intelligent, though as we have unfortunately come to expect with budget re-issues, there are no texts for the songs. CFP also have the wrong overall timing on the back cover (they make it a rather more generous 77.36, ten minutes over the actual length). Nonetheless, it’s difficult to imagine a more persuasive selection at such a temptingly low price.

Tony Haywood

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