Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



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SONGS OF FRANCE
sung by the sopranos: Madeleine GREY (1897-1979); Claire CROIZA (1882-1946); Yvonne PRINTEMPS (1894-1977)
Joseph CANTELOUBE

Chants d'Auvergne: Baïléro; Three Bourrées; Brezairola; Malouros quo un fenno; Two Bourrées; Lo fiolaire; L'Antouéno; Passo del prat
Grey with orch cond Elie Cohen - rec Feb 1930
Maurice RAVEL Chansons Madécasses
Grey with flute, piano, cello trio dir by composer - rec 1932
Maurice RAVEL Chants Hebraïques
Grey with composer at piano - rec 1932
Pierre DE BREVILLE La belle au bois
Croiza with Pierre de Breville - rec 1929
Reynaldo HAHN Mozart (Air de la lettre; Air des adieux)
Francis POULENC A sa guitarre
Georges AURIC Margot - Printemps
MESSAGER L'Amour Masqué
Printemps with orchestra rec. June 1929 / Dec 1935
PEARL GEM0013 [61.22]

More than half of this disc is accounted for by the Ravel and Canteloube of Madeleine Grey. Grey was born Madeleine Nathalie Grumberg on 11 June 1897 at Vilaines-la-Juhel in Mayenne. She died in Paris on 13 March 1979.

Grey's vintage versions of the Canteloube songs were my introduction to them. A handful were included by some adventurous and well-informed producer in one of BBC Radio 3's morning programmes back in 1971. Grey sounds more mature than my now favourite version (Netania Davrath on Vanguard - presumably temporarily unavailable given the demise of the Omega Group). She delivers the unruly kick of a lickerish pony in L'Aio de rotso and does so with seamless breath control. The orchestral sound has considerable heft, surprising given that it is seventy years old. Woodwind are dominant in the sound-scape. Grey’s Brezairola lullaby is more matter of fact than Davrath's which is famous for her unsophisticated bergère innocence. Maluros qu'o uno fenno is fragrant with the suggestion of reedy dances, hazy summer heat and knowing looks. The first bourrée (tr. 5) at 00.18 sounds rather like Martinů drenched in light and melody. The two dance-songs are taken very quickly amid a rapturous riot of woodwind tone. Grey's enunciation and choice of emphasis are adroit with beautifully picked out syllabic differentiation on the words 'dellai lou riou'. In Lo Fiolaire (tr. 6), that onomatopoeic hymn to the spinner's whirling distaff, Grey takes things faster than we are accustomed to from the many modern interpretations. Listen to the words 'ti lirou lirou'. L'Antouéno explodes onto the scene in an ecstatic rushing and falling and rising. The band is reedy, clean and, thank heavens, not over-sophisticated. They preserve a sense of the grass, dazzle, dust and warmth. These same strengths also radiate from Pierre de la Roche's unnamed orchestra for the Davrath version. Passo del prat showcases Grey's voice as imperious, probing, with a nasal tendency which is the antithesis of the generally chesty tone often found in more recent versions from a host of operatic divas slumming it.

In the Chansons Madécasses Grey recorded only two year after the Canteloube, she colours her voice away from the open and ingenuous Songs of the Auvergne into a darker realm troubled with anger and impetuosity; spitting vitriol in Aoua - more ecstatically contented but full of noises of some Bartókian night. The Chants Hébraïques, sung in Hebrew, were also recorded in 1932. Both Ravel cycles were recorded by Polydor. The song Mejerke would make a good Christmas quiz. Who would have thought that this was by Ravel?

Then Claire Croiza sings de Breville's charming dream, La Belle Au Bois, with the composer accompanying. This is a wonderful song - fully deserving to share the limelight with Canteloube and Grey.

The other tracks are by Yvonne Printemps whose voice fills the sound-stage with a precisian's attention to clarity of vowels and consonants. The two from Mozart are subtle and not as blessedly facile as the De Breville. Poulenc’s A Sa Guitare is full of sleepy enchantment. Auric’s Printemps is harp-delicate and cantering Messager wrote the equivalent of Strauss operas. This is lighter musical fare with stage humour coquettishly done and mixing speech with song.

Treasury recordings that merit pride of place on the CD shelves of any collector who takes prides in having a representative sampling of the vocal riches of the last century. This will also be of great interest to enthusiasts of Ravel and Canteloube collectors intrigued to know of the earliest traditions for these increasingly well-loved songs.

Rob Barnett



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