The French rather invented
the concept of the petit maître
and produced a lot of them. Duparc,
you may say, whose 16 solo songs (the
two omitted here are unsuitable for
male performance) and one duet barely
fill a CD (and the rest of whose output
would barely fill another), must be
one of the most petit of all.
And yet there is nothing petit about
the music itself which, unlike the gentle,
cherishable offerings of, say Fauré,
is expansive, intense and passionate.
The term "epic miniature"
which has sometimes been applied to
John Irelandís smaller works is even
more true of Duparc, and never less
so in an apparently "little"
piece like the "Sérénade
That a musician of
such vast experience as Roger Vignoles
would not fail to realise this essential
bigness might have been taken for granted.
Paul Groves is (at least for me) an
unknown factor and he has evidently
given a lot of thought to the words
and phrasing, as well as employing a
wide range of vocal colour. Yet, while
I give him full marks for his intentions,
I have to say that some colours are
more successful than others. Particularly
when singing softly he seems undecided
whether it is best to use a head voice
or to stay supporting; there are some
less than exquisite sounds either way.
Still, on the whole he will not leave
you in doubt as to the quality or nature
of the music.
The final track seems
to have been designed to show us that,
whatever reservations we may have about
Groves, singing comes infinitely worse
than his. In Duparcís sole duet he is
partnered by a soprano whose name, rightfully
relegated to the small print, is Emily
Pulley. Itís the sort of voice which
just about works when billowing out
operatically but sounds tremulous and
insecure when anything subtle is required.
And when she does billow out
operatically something goes badly awry
with the microphone, pulling the level
back drastically in a not very successful
attempt to avoid distortion. Frankly,
this track is not of an acceptable professional
level, either artistically or technically,
and should not have been issued. Itís
a pity no-one thought of engaging a
better singer who might then have recorded
the remaining two songs (for which there
was ample room), thereby increasing
the discís value as an aural reference
In spite of a good
note and full texts and translations,
Iím afraid this is one of those Naxos
discs which seems priced about right.
If eight songs are enough for you (including
one of those not included here and coupled
with Debussy and Poulenc), may I remind
you of Olga Pasiecznikís beautiful
disc, recommended by me some time
ago, entitled "Les Chemins díAmour"
(Accord ACD 078-2)? Here we enter a
totally different world, where the ear
is led onwards by the sheer beauty of
the voice which wafts in and out of
our consciousness as a perfect counterpart
to Marcel Proust. A gentler, less epic
Duparc, but wonderfully beautiful. Do
On a question of nomenclature,
can I point out to Naxos that these
are "Mélodies", not
are things like "La Vie en Rose".