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Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879–1957)
Chants d’Auvergne (selection) [23:19]
Triptyque (1914) [16:04]
Chants de France (selection) [17:35]
Véronique Gens (soprano)
Orchestre National de Lille-Région Nord/Pas-de-Calais/Serge Baudo
rec. Auditorium du Nouveau Siècle, Lille, 6-9 January 2007
No texts included
Detailed track-listing at end of review
NAXOS 8.570338 [56:58]

Since Stokowski’s and Anna Moffo’s pioneering recording of selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, these beautiful folk-song arrangements have become part of many sopranos’ repertoire. One can name Kiri Te Kanawa, Jill Gomez, Frederica von Stade and others having had a go at these ravishing works. Véronique Gens has already recorded a first volume with the same orchestra conducted by Jean-Claude Casadesus (Naxos 8.557491) favourably reviewed here by Anne Ozorio.
In spite of a varied output of chamber and orchestral music also including an opera Le Mas, the composer is now mainly known for his colourful, yet often subtle arrangements. In fact, next to the now celebrated Chants d’Auvergne, he also collected and arranged folk-songs from the Basque country, some of which were recorded some time ago (on Audivis). The present selection of nine folk songs, a few of which are new to me, beautifully complements Gens’ first instalment. What makes this release particularly worth having is the inclusion of a selection from Les Chants de France and, more importantly to my mind, that of the fine Triptyque composed in 1914 but first performed in 1925. In these settings of poems by Roger Frêne, a poet unknown to me about whom I could not find any useful information, Canteloube proves himself the heir of the likes of Fauré, Duparc and Chausson. At the same time he is attentive to the musical trends of his time: Debussy and Ravel. There is much orchestral refinement in these fine settings with more than a touch of Impressionism. I was particularly impressed by the third song Hymne dans l’aurore. It paints a strongly atmospheric evocation of the coming of dawn crowned by a glowing sunrise.
In Chants de France, Canteloube continues his labour of love with French folk-song and brings comparable subtlety and refinement to bear. In much the same way as in Chants d’Auvergne, the composer succeeds in wrapping his arrangements in superb orchestral guise, while bringing out some surprising and unexpected touches. Just try the first song, the celebrated Auprès de ma blonde; in which the composer eschews any mawkishness and vulgarity. In the last one, D’où venez-vous fillette? Has some salty rhythmic surprises in the accompaniment. The other arrangements in this selection, likewise those from Chants d’Auvergne, alternate touching tenderness, mild sorrow and earthy humour. A most welcome addition to the catalogue, although I wanted more of them given the somewhat short total playing time of this otherwise desirable release.
Véronique Gens sings beautifully throughout and shows a fine understanding of the Auvergne dialect. I think I remember a recent interview - was it in Gramophone? - in which she mentioned that she had family roots in the Auvergne and that these folk-songs meant a great deal to her. That certainly shows in her performances; but she is equally and equally perfectly at ease with the other works featured here.
Serge Baudo is highly regarded for his sympathy with French music of the first half of the 20th century and beyond. Once again he proves a most reliable and inspired partner. A pity, though, that the words of Triptyque could not be printed in the insert notes, although Gens’ excellent diction more than compensates.
Hubert Culot
Detailed Tracklisting
Chants d'Auvergne
La Pastrouletta e lou chibalie (La Bergere et le Cavalier)
Lo Fiolaire (La Fileuse) [02:44]
Pour L'enfant [02:56]
Chut, Chut [02:09]
Pastorale [04:29]
Obal, din lo coumbelo (Au - loin, la - bas dans la vallee) [05:18]
Postouro, se tu m'aymo (Bergere si tu m'aimes) [01:30]
Te, l'co, Te! (Va, l'chien, va!) [00:43]
He! Beyla - z - y dau fe! (He! donne - lui du foin!) [01:45]
No. 1. Offrande a l'été [05:10]
No. 2. Lunaire [04:00]
No. 3. Hymne dans l'aurore [06:54]
Chants de France
Auprès de ma blonde [03:20]
Ou irai - je me plaindre? [03:18]
Au pre de la rose [01:23]
Delicieuses cimes [03:29]
Reveillez - vous! [03:38]
D'ou venez - vous fillette? [02:27]


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