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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Fanny Heldy (soprano)
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

L’heure espagnole – Ah, la pitoyable aventure
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)

Le merchand de Venise – La Sentence! #
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Roméo et Juliette – Valse de Juliette
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

La Traviata – Quel trouble…Folie!
La Traviata – Adieu, tout ce que j’aime
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Bohème – Oui, on m’appelle Mimi
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1950)

Louise – Depuis le jour
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Thaïs – Air du miroir
Thaïs – Duo de l’oasis with Marcel Journet (tenor)
Manon – Je suis encore
Manon – Restons ici
Manon – Adieu, notre petite table
Manon – Toi! Vous!
Manon – Suis-je gentile ainsi? *
Manon – Obéissons, quand leur voix appelle *
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust – Ballade du Roi de Thulé
Faust – Trio, finale with Fernand Ansseau (bass) and Marcel Journet (tenor)
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Carmen – Duet: Parle-moi de ma mère with Fernand Ansseau (bass)
Fanny Heldy (soprano) with soloists as noted above and
Orchestras conducted by Piero Coppola and Reynaldo Hahn #
Orchestra conducted by Henri Büsser Paris 1923 *
Recorded 1923-36
MALIBRAN CDRG 163 [75.32]

The so-called Franco-Belgian Violin School has its inevitable vocal analogue. Held to be a quintessential exponent of the French repertoire Fanny Heldy was, as was Marcel Journet, a superb Des Grieux and a frequent partner of hers; actually Belgian born. She was christened Marguerite Deceuninck in Ath, near Liège in 1888. She studied there before gravitating to Brussels, and then during the First War to Paris. She then began an almost uninterrupted series of successes, giving new works and old, and premiering those by Honegger, Ibert and Hahn amongst many others and along with Vallin, Vix and Lubin was one of the adornments of inter-War Parisian musical – and indeed international – life. We are fortunate that she left a reasonable number of recordings; her biggest undertaking was probably the first complete Manon, of which one record is reproduced in this disc, which was recorded on 48 78-rpm sides in 1923 for Pathé. The discs take us up to 1936 only because two years later she married and retired.

The sides collated by Malibran show all her many virtues. Take the opening Ravel; charm but a technique to support it, open vowel sounds, flighty characterisation. Or the Hahn, with the composer conducting, where she evinces a splendidly sustained bottom register and employs portamenti deliciously; she is here the embodiment of coquettish conversationality. In the Verdi – sung as with everything here, as was the custom of the day, in her native language - we can hear her fine legato, with a full complement of diminuendi and portamenti; also that rather girlish tone - soubrettish would be too trivialising a word but it has the potential. Hers was very definitely not a heavy voice and her Verdi relies on elfin characterisation than on expressive power. The recording also underlines – or exaggerates – something else about her voice, which is that it can take on a somewhat metallic ring, something that becomes evident through the range of these recordings.

Her partners here are the excellent Journet and the still noble but increasingly elderly and lugubrious Fernand Ansseau (he died in 1933, just a few years after these sides were made). In these duets and trios Journet is superb in Manon, recorded around 1928 and good in the final trio from Faust, where Heldy is somewhat less impressive – just too strident for comfort. The souvenir of that earlier 1923 Manon is in the form of Pathé 1730, which convinces through Heldy’s innate charm and effortless stylishness. I don’t think it’s a fanciful by-product of the late acoustic recording technique, but her voice sounds lighter than it was to sound a decade later and she has no need at all to force her tone. The copies used are slightly rough but perfectly serviceable.

The booklet is in French and English with a concise biography of the singer and some delightful period photographs, all of which enhance a welcome addition to the catalogue. I should add in conclusion that the complete 1923 Manon is currently on Marston (excellently transferred) and that her recordings, along with those of Journet are collated on the same label. Pearl also has a number of her sides, mainly devoted to the Ansseau recordings. If you don’t have the Marston discs this Malibran is a good bet.

Jonathan Woolf


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