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JULES BASTIN Ė aux fil díune carrière Ö
Jerome KERN (1885-1945)

Show Boat: Olí man River
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1968)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia: La calunnia
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra/Silveer Vandenbrock (public performance, 1991)

Le Violon sur le Toit: Ah! Si jíétais riche
RTB Chamber Orchestra/Edgard Doneux (1976)

So les bwèrds du nosst-Amblève (poem recited in Walloon) (1971)

Li pítit banc Ė mélodie wallonne
Raymond Micha (pianoforte) (1977)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Der Doppelgänger, Der Atlas
Ursula Kneihs (pianoforte) (1978)
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Trepak, Song of the Flea (in French)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Die beiden Grenadiere

An die Musik
Lysette Levèque (pianoforte) (1965)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Wotanís Farewell (in German)

Air de Boris (in French)
Jules Bastin (bass)
With pianoforte: from Brussels Royal Conservatoire Competition, 1958
PAVANE ADW 7400 [52.11]

This compilation covers 33 years of the career of the Belgian bass Jules Bastin (1933-1996), beginning with the latest items, two extracts from a concert held before the King of Belgium. If "Olí Man River" shows off his rich, authoritative timbre, he is in his element in Rossiniís calumny aria , relishing the words like the old operatic hand he was. This would be a classic rendering were it not for the fact that orchestral opposition is no less devastating for being thoroughly disorganised.

From the other end of his career we can hear him already a fully-formed artist in his prize-winning contributions to the 1958 Brussels Royal Conservatoire competition, with an un-named pianist doing a remarkably good job of making Wotanís Farewell sound as if it were actually written for the piano. His lower tones have not yet acquired the richness that only maturity can bring but his upper register has a youthful sheen which slightly dried up with the passing years.

A few years later he is characterful in the two Mussorgsky songs (sung in French, as is Borisís aria from the 1958 competition) and powerful in Schumannís "Two Grenadiers" but the pianist, unobtrusive in these three pieces, proves a very heavy-handed lady indeed in "An die Musik", contributing to a very un-liederlike rendering.

In due course Bastin explored the lieder repertoire with the Austrian pianist Ursula Kneibs and the two examples of their collaboration show him to have become an impressively idiomatic interpreter . If this is part of a complete Schwanengesang I hope to hear it all one day.

That the 1970s were vintage years for Bastin is also suggested by "Ah! Si jíétais riche!", a piece about which we get no information at all but which certainly parades his strong communicative gifts. We also hear him reciting poetry in his native Walloon. Unfortunately the absence of texts and translations, regrettable throughout, renders this track quite incomprehensible to those whose Walloon is less than fluent (in plain English, I didnít understand a damn thing). For similar reasons, the Walloon air "Li pítit banc" seems hardly interesting enough to hold the attention as pure music.

Personally, I am grateful to this disc for alerting me to the fact that a singer I knew only by name may be rather more wide-ranging and important than I had supposed. That said, the programme as such is rather bitty and I doubt if I shall ever hear it straight through again. I very much look forward to exploring the art of Jules Bastin more fully in the future.

Christopher Howell

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