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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


RECORDING OF THE MONTH

 

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Paul PARAY (1886-1979)
Affairs of the Heart - The complete Mélodies of Paul Paray
CD 1
Mélodies with orchestra

Le papillon (1911) [3:06];
Trois Mélodies sur des poésies de Théophile Gautier (1912) (Infidelité [2:20]; La dernière feuille [1:54]; Serment [1:18]);
Quatre Poèmes de Jean Lahor (1921) (Après l'orage [1:15]; Adieux [2:25]; Après le bal [1:47]; Désir de mort [2:16]);
Villanelle (1920s?) [1:51];
La promesse (1910) [2:31];
Le chevrier (1913) [2:31];
La plainte (1911) [3:41];
Il est d'étranges soirs (1913) [4:12];
Nocturne pour violon et orchestre (1910) [3:27];
Trois Poèmes pour choeur et orchestre (1910-11): (Soleils de Septembre [5:12]; L'aurore vermeille [4:07]; Nuit tombante [3:45])
CD 2
Mélodies with piano; sacred songs with organ

Emprise (1905 or 1908) [2:36];
Nuit d'Italie (1908?) [2:16];
Chanson violette [4:04];
Sépulture (1908) [3:15];
Champs de bataille (1912) [5:03];
En pays de Cocagne (1908?) [5:56];
Chanson napolitaine (1907) [3:43];
Embarquement pour l'idéal (1911) [2:57];
Viole (1913) [2:54];
Mortes les fleurs (1907) [3:51];
Paroles à la lune (1902) [4:06];
Dans les bois (1904) [3:13];
Le Poète et la Muse (1908) [3:37];
Vocalise-Étude (1924) [4:00];
Chaque chose a sa petit place [2:16];
In manus tuas (1914) [3:42];
Panis Angelicus (1904) [4:25];
Ruth Lapeyre (soprano)
Adam Stepniewski (violin) (Nocturne)
Nadine Deleury (cello)
Eric Everett (baritone) (Chaque chose; In manus)
The Assumption Grotto Orchestra and Choir, Detroit, Michigan/Fr. Eduard Perrone
Fr. Eduard Perrone (piano; organ)
rec. 2002, Detroit
world premiere recordings
GROTTO PRODUCTIONS GP-0004[48:39 + 63:02]

 

This set and the music it presents with such taste and accomplishment is yet another pearl of the lyric repertoire. To date it continues to waste its sweetness on the desert air but with this set we can have some hope that things will change. The music demands your attention if you have any feeling for the settings of Duparc, Canteloube, Chausson, Ravel and Debussy.

A few words about the coverage. Apart from some cabaret songs written under a pseudonym these are the complete extant songs of Paul Paray. A handful of other songs are known to have existed but their scores have since disappeared. The two discs largely comprise songs for soprano with orchestra on CD1 and with piano on CD2. There are three choral-orchestral songs at the end of CD1 and a short piece for solo violin and orchestra. The songs are predominantly secular, drawing on the great French poets favoured by composers during the period 1890-1920. There are two religious songs at the end of CD2. Two songs are sung by the baritone Eric Everett. One of the songs with piano on side 2 is a vocalise. The religious songs are for voice and organ with in one case an additional solo cello.

CD1 launches with the ecstatic, fluttering, quick-pulsed serenade Papillon which is most beautifully lofted by Perrone and Lapeyre. Lapeyre is the most adroit choice for this repertoire. Where has she been hidden? I wonder that Hyperion did not use her - and for that matter Laurent Naouri - in their various French albums. She is a singer of superior ability, taste and intelligence. Then come the three Gaultier Mélodies. There’s the sighing Infidélité where the finely spun last word ‘vous’ tapers into niente without a single beat or tremor in Lapeyre’s voice. Glorious. Listen also to the aestival warmth and lilt of the orchestral skein at the end of La dernière feuille. After the playfulness of Après l’orage come the throbbing shadows and irresistible intensity of Adieux - an imposingly emotional scena. For contrast we then get the fly-away, skittery, waltz-tinged Après le bal. Désir de mort is dedicated to a close friend of the Parays, Marcelle Maurel. Its sway and movement recalls, as Fr. Perrone reminds us in the excellent notes, of Duparc’s Extase. This is another major discovery: languorous and sensuous music most beautifully prepared and sung. The same applies to the equally subtle song Il est d'étranges soirs which rises amid the din of bells to an operatic-dramatic climax of considerable power. Not for the first time it becomes apparent that had Paray felt so inclined he could have contributed to the treasures of French opera. In the same way that Champ de Bataille on CD2 is dedicated to Charles Murano who sang in Paray’s Jeanne d’Arc so Il est d'étranges soirs is dedicated to Jane Goupil who would sing the title role in the same piece.

Villanelle quickens the pace and majors on smiling playfulness. Yes, this is the same text used by Berlioz in his cycle Nuits d’Été. Originally written in Paris in 1910, La Promesse was orchestrated in 1921. It recalls, at some points, Butterworth’s Love Blows as the Wind Blows but with a more hooded and ambiguously melancholic air that would have instantly appealed to Bernard Herrmann. Le Chevrier is a vivid little watercolour in which the skip of the goats is enchantingly heard in the hiccups of strings and woodwind.

Then come Three Poems for choir and orchestra. The definition and clarity of the words here leaves something to be desired but otherwise these three songs are magically done. The second, L'aurore vermeille, with its wakeful piping, recalls the warmth of the Canteloube Auvergne songs.

The second CD is of mélodies dating from earlier than the orchestral examples on CD1. Once again it has the gloriously steady and sensitive Ruth Lapeyre as singer and Fr Eduard Perrone as the anchor. The acoustic is a shade lively for piano and singer; listen to the echo at the end of Emprise and on CD1 of Serment however the sound is unclouded and easily springs to dramatic life when the setting requires. Nuit d'Italie is a succulent song with lissom melodic invention clustered around the carillon piano figure. The same poem by Paul Bourget was also set by Chausson in his Sérénade Italienne. Bells too play their part in the plangent and measured piano part for Sépulture which reminded me of the more lugubrious romances of Rachmaninov. Champs de bataille does away with carillons and instead adopts a bruising brutal four-square ostinato that fades only slowly into peace. I wondered about whether the soprano voice is right for this poem given its topography and warlike subject matter; it needs more vocal punch than it gets. The song was written in 1912; two years later the composer would experience war firsthand. Chanson napolitaine has the look and feel of a gently sentimental popular song with a jog-trot ostinato. Embarquement pour l'idéal takes us straight into Chausson and Duparc territory: that hooded-eyes dreaminess with a sweetly chiming Baxian piano accompaniment. The poem is by Catulle Mendès and is taken up with the poet’s rejection of reality and absorption in sublime illusion. This impressionistic music is fully the match for the ethereal subject. Viole recalls the opéra lyrique smiles of Papillon on CD1. For Mortes les fleurs Paray taps into the ecstatic mood of Embarquement pour l'idéal. Paroles à la lune was his first song, written at age 16. This has an easy, almost casual, sing-song quality and a hint of Spanish terraces. Had he written this ten years later it would have been much more sensuous. Dans les bois dates from only two years later. It sets Gérard de Nerval’s poem about the fleeting life-story of a bird amid a piano accompaniment that has Debussian echoes. Then comes a piece from much later in Paray’s career and long after his return from war and prison. This Vocalise-Étude from 1924 has grace and ecstatic sweetness and would match well with the vocalise works by Medtner and Rachmaninov. These are all well sung by Ruth Lapeyre.

We then hear from the baritone Eric Everett in the easy-going Chaque chose a sa petit place and the earnest In manus tuas. Mr Everett’s voice is no match for Ms Lapeyre’s. He is desperately unsteady in breath control and the strain tells against him from time to time. In the latter there is one of those typical Paray jog-trot serenade accompaniments; extremely attractive. In Chaque chose a sa petit place Everett is accompanied by piano and in In manus tuas by organ The organ returns but this time with Nadine Deleury’s cello and Mme Lapeyre in Panis Angelicus (1904).

The Nocturne for violin and orchestra is one of three pieces dedicated to M. P. Roussel and originally for violin and piano. The other two are Sérénade and Humoresque, dating from 1908 and 1910. The orchestration is by Henri Mouton. It is a downy-light sweetly sentimental song that steers securely away from the caramel reefs. The sighing Havanaise-sweet violin melody is underpinned by another of Paray’s irresistible ostinati. Fr. Perrone justifies its place here as a song without words and does so quite credibly. After all on CD2 there is a Vocalise-Étude where the voice is used as a violin.

Fr Perrone, whose dedication and commitment continues to bear up Paray’s music and reputation, has prepared the detailed booklet. For each song we are presented with the original text and a translation into English with background notes for each song as well as a valuable scene-setting introduction.

This luxurious set is a treasury of French song and although it has its few troughs it is overwhelmingly a thing of ecstatic peaks. I hope that it will not be the last time we will hear from Ruth Lapeyre. We know that there is more to come from Paray and Grotto. The next disc will be of Paray’s two symphonies. The sooner the better.

Rob Barnett

 



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