The bucolic Canteloube
songs in Auvergnat dialect and in venerable
French are gems, every one. There is
not a single dud in the set. Ever since
the Dubonnet commercial of the early
1970s they have never been out of the
public's affections. That said, when
did you last hear them in concert? They
are the almost exclusive province of
the radio broadcast and the CD player.
I always think of the
singer of these songs as the goat shepherdess
Manon from the film 'Manon des Sources'
- wrong geography for these songs but
right spirit. The closest approach to
perfection - in fact sui generis
is the two CD set by Natania
Davrath on Vanguard (Vanguard Classics
Grey's 1930 pioneering recordings
are well worth seeking out if you can
thole the vintage sound (Pearl GEM0013).
Various big names have tackled these
songs. Of these, Von
Stade (Sony) and Upshaw
(leisurely on Warner ERATO 0927 44656
2) did especially well. Others including
Kiri Te Kanawa flatten these songs like
a trodden snail with an excess of operatic
weight. These are, after all, songs
of an innocence and worldliness that
is both young and pastoral. There should
be no intrusive sophistication. Gens
is good - make absolutely no mistake.
I also liked the engineer's choice to
give the diaphanous orchestral role
parity of prominence with the voice.
Gens' voice has the slightest suggestion
of plumminess which takes some of the
attractive sheen off this new issue.
She is however excellent at getting
her lips around tongue-twisters such
as Obal din lou Limouzi (tr.
5). Her breath control is a thing of
wonder in Pastourelle (tr. 6).
Gens and Casadesus are just a little
hasty in the Baïlero - robbing
this glorious heat-haze of a song of
its full effect. The wheeze of the village
band in Oud 'onoren gorda? (tr.
4) is faithfully caught by the Lille
orchestra. Interesting to hear that
the Delian pulse at the start of Oï
ayaï (tr. 16). The recording
gives a jewelled eminence to the orchestral
piano. In the long introduction to Lo
delaïssádo there is
a startlingly Finzian plangency to the
woodwind parts. The little instrumental
'yawns' in Brezairola register
By the look of the
recording dates the team took a lot
of time to get the songs just right.
It's just a pity that opportunity was
not taken to put more songs on the disc.
This is a very good
economical single disc version of 21
of the Auvergne songs. They are well
sung and the orchestral role is given
the attention its attractions clamantly
demand. The picture is completed by
Naxos’s decision to print full sung
texts and parallel translations into
Speaking of which,
the last song ends with a vengeful Housman-like
touch when the girl speaks of faithless
Pierre who steals hearts and breaks
them. The girl sings with feeling of
her heart stolen by Pierre. No sighs
here, however: to startling donkey brays
from the orchestra she sings
'If you ever do that again / Give that
trouble / I will take my knife /And
skin you alive.' And I think she means
see also review
by Anne Ozorio