French composer Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) was a
protégé of Bizet, and student of Benjamin Godard;
and her talent was recognised by Ambroise
Thomas, Massenet, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Chabrier.
She composed works for orchestra, a comic opera and a ballet but she
is remembered for her sparkling songs full of charm and joie de vivre.
They are redolent of the spirit of fin de siècle Paris, City of Lights. Given their appeal, it is extraordinary that they have been so overlooked for
so long by the recording companies.
This delightful compilation includes twenty-five of her songs,
all little gems. I could wax enthusiastic about all of them in fact
I ticked them all for comment as I listened through for the first time.
Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg
show great affection for them, their performances are very committed;
a sense of fun and enjoyment is clearly communicated. Anne Sofie
colours her voice according to their mood and sings most expressively
enjoying every nuance and elegant lilt. Just to mention a few: ‘L’amour
captif’ (Love Held Captive) is deliciously
cheeky and capricious; ‘Ma premiere lettre’
(My First Letter) is an affecting remembrance of a first love letter;
‘Nice-la-belle’ (Nice the Beautiful) is an engaging high-spirited visit
to sunny Nice full of flowers and gorgeous girls; ‘Te souviens-tu?’
(Do you remember?), to words by Benjamin Godard,
is one of Chaminade’s most beguiling melodies, and Ecrin (Jewel-case) teases naughtily both in the vocal and
instrumental lines. The most substantial song is reserved until last
the 5+ minute ‘L’Été’ (Summer) a beautifully
evocative setting of words by Edouard Guinard
that gives Von Otter the opportunity to show off her coloratura talents
in a dazzling display of sheer joyeuse.
Additionally, there are six tracks of non-vocal music: three
pieces for violin and piano (with Nils-Erik
Sparf joining Forsberg) and another three numbers for two
pianos with Peter Jablonski on second piano.
Of the three pieces for violin and piano the opening Sérénade espagnole
is performed in Fritz Kreisler’s engaging arrangement. The following Rondeau is pleasant if a little formal while the Capriccio
skits along down well-trodden salon music paths. Of the music for two
pianos, Valse carnavalesque
is a clever, jolly tour de force combining waltz figures with
humorous material that suggests puppets on strings – there is an enchanting
poignancy here too. Chaminade, herself, created something of a sensation
when, in 1910, she played this piece accompanying herself playing second
piano as a pre-recorded piano-roll pianola recording. Pas des
cymbales is a sparkling piece recalling
but without suggesting pastiche, Chabrier’s España. Danse
païenne is a little caprice looking back towards 19th
A tonic for the winter months. Twenty-five delightful songs sung with great élan
and affection by Anne Sofie von Otter splendidly
supported by Bengt Forsberg and six sparkling
bonus pieces for violin and piano, and two pianos.
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