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Leopold Simoneau & Pierrette Alarie - Vol. 1
CD 1
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Duets for Soprano and Tenor
1. Cosi fan tutte, K588: Fra gli amplesi [5:49]
2. Spiegarti non poss'io, K489 [3:26]
3. Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K384: Welch ein Geschick [8:18]
4. La finta giardiniera, K196: Tu mi lasci [7:19]
Pierrette Alarie (soprano), Leopold Simoneau (tenor)
Arias for Tenor
5. Misero! o sogno, K431 [9:08]
6. Per pietà, non ricercate, K420 [5:59]
Leopold Simoneau
Arias for Soprano:
7. Mia speranza adorata, K416 [8:56]
8. No, no che non sei capace, K419 [4:20]
Pierrette Alarie
Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Walter Goehr
rec. 1959
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K384:
9. Ach ich liebte [5:10]
10. Traurigkeit [8:09]
11. Martern aller Arten [8:16]
Le nozze di Figaro:
12. Deh vieni non tardar [4:38]
Pierrette Alarie, Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Albert Bittner
rec. 1952
CD 2
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, beginning
CD 3
Johann Sebastian BACH
1 - 10: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232, cont.
Pierrette Alarie (soprano), Catherina Delfosse (soprano), Grace Hoffman (contralto), Léopold Simoneau (tenor), Heinz Rehfuss (bass), Amsterdam Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra/Walter Goehr
rec. 1959
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
11. Ridente la calma, K152 [3:38]
12. Männer suchen stets zu naschen, K433 [2:02]
13. Un moto di gioia mi sento, K579 [1:35]
Pierrette Alarie, John Newmark (piano)
14. Oiseaux, si tous les ans, K307 [1:38]
15. An Chloe, K524 [2:40]
16. Abendempfindung, K523 [5:09]
Léopold Simoneau, John Newmark (piano)
11 - 16 rec. 1956
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
17. Er und Sie, Op. 78, No. 2 [3:24]
18. Liebhabers Ständchen, Op. 34, No. 2 [2:18]
19. Ich denke dein, Op. 78, No. 3 [2:43]
20. In der Nacht, Op. 74, No. 4 [4:49]
21. Unterm Fenster, Op. 34, No. 3 [1:29]
22. Wiegenlied, Op. 78, No. 4 [2:33]
23. Liebesgarten, Op. 34, No. 1 [3:53]
24. Tanzlied, Op. 78, No. 1 [2:12]
25. Die tausend Grüsse, Op. 101, No. 7 [1:44]
Pierrette Alarie, Léopold Simoneau, John Newmark (piano)
rec. 1962
CD 4
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
1. Ode to Joy (Finale of Symphony No. 9, Op. 125) [27:18]
Pierrette Alarie (soprano), Maureen Forrester (contralto), Léopold Simoneau (tenor), Joseph Rouleau (bass), Chorus and Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal/Wilfried Pelletier
rec. live (radio broadcast) from the opening concert of the International 1967 Expo in Montreal, 29 April 1967
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
2-3. Oedipus Rex, Opera-Oratorio after Sophocles (Text: Jean Cocteau)
Léopold Simoneau /tenor) - Oedipus; Eugenia Zareska (mezzo) - Jocasta; Bernard Cottret (bass) - Creon; George Abdoun (bass) - Tiresias; Gérard Serkoyan (bass) - Messenger; Michel Hamel (tenor) - Messenger; Jean Cocteau (narration);
Orchestre National de France & Choeur de Radio-France/Igor Stravinsky
rec. live (radio broadcast) at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, 19 May 1952
DOREMI DHR79169 [79:46 + 78:32 + 79:41 + 78:09] 


Experience Classicsonline

Soprano Pierrette Alarie, born 1921, and tenor Léopold Simoneau, born 1916, died in 2006. They were two of the foremost Canadian singers ever. From the 1940s - they were married in 1946 - until 1970, when they both retired, they had highly successful careers on both sides of the Atlantic, most of all in Mozart operas, for which they had perfectly suited voices. Pierrette Alarie had a light, agile, glittering, effortlessly produced soprano, ideal for the soubrette roles but she was also a good Konstanze, as we can hear on CD 1 in this box. She had the same attractive timbre as Rita Streich, who was born just a year before Ms Alarie. As for Léopold Simoneau he was the most mellifluous and stylish Mozart tenor of the 1950s, and in saying this I take into the reckoning names such as Anton Dermota and Ernst Haefliger. The only one seriously to challenge him was the young Nicolai Gedda, but he soon developed into the lirico spinto fach, while Simoneau remained a lirico, even though he sang roles as heavy as Don José and Hoffmann. In connection with the Mozart celebrations in 1956 he recorded all the big tenor roles for a variety of record companies. 

In this box are collected recordings that have been hard to get track down. This is the commercial debut of the finale from Beethovens Symphony No. 9. Two of the recordings were originally issued by Concert Hall in the early 1960s: Bachs B minor Mass and an LP which contained the first eight tracks on CD 1. This was one of my earliest LPs - it carries No. 24 in my chronological catalogue - and it is still, after 45 years, one of my favourite Mozart records. Since then I have heard many versions of most of these arias and duets but Alarie and Simoneau remain top contenders.

I must admit that I was rather disappointed when I played the CD transfer. Not with the singing, which is just as marvellous as I remembered it, but with the presentation. On the LP the four duets and the four concert arias were mixed to give a satisfying recital to listen to without interruption. A live recital with the two singers would probably have been arranged that way. Here we get the duets first and then the arias. With programming facilities this is easy to correct but it takes some time. What really worried me was the quality of the transfers. I dont know if Doremi have had the master tapes available but I doubt it. The sound is, to be honest, bad - especially afflicting the orchestral sound. All right, Concert Hall were not famous for the highest of fi but my old LP pressing sounds a lot more modern than this. There is heavy distortion on the voices in forte passages, which makes me wonder if a worn LP has been used as master. But even then modern technique could easily have eliminated such noise. I have, for personal use, transferred several hundred LPs, in various conditions, to CD and the results have been a good deal better than this - and my equipment is far from sophisticated. So a black mark to Doremi and a warning to intending buyers. The first CD is completed with four arias that Pierrette Alarie recorded for Telefunken as early as 1952 and there the sound is as good as one could wish.

The characteristics of Alaries and Simoneaus voices and styles as described in the first paragraph can be applied to each and every number here. The brilliance of Pierrette Alaries voice is paired with considerable warmth, which is not always the case with light sopranos. Simoneau starts the Così duet hesitantly and there is even some strain but his honeyed soft singing is as apt as ever. It is difficult to imagine more stylish Mozart singing. As Konstanze and Belmonte in Die Entführung they are ideal. The other two duets are more of a rarity. Spiegarti non poss io was composed on 10 March 1786 - while he was working on Le nozze di Figaro - for a private performance of Idomeneo three days later. It is lovely music: Continos and Sandrinas duet from La finta giardiniera, completed in January 1775, is wholly delightful. 

It is a pity that Mozarts concert arias are not heard more frequently, since many of them are real gems. Misero! o sogno has an almost sacred tone in the opening recitative and Simoneaus singing is unsurpassed. Per pietà was composed for Valentin Adamsberger as inserts in Pasquale Anfossis opera Il curioso indiscreto for performances in Vienna in 1783. It is dramatic and Simoneau is truly ardent - and elegant. 

For the same opera he also composed No, no, che non sei capace for Aloysia Lange, to show off her virtuoso technique. Pierrette Alarie sings it superbly and she also invests it with feeling. Mia speranza adorata was also composed for Aloysia, to a text from another Anfossi opera, Zemira. The coloratura singing is faultless and there is also dramatic flair. It is indeed a thousands pities that the transfers are so amateurish. Walter Goehr was a reliable conductor, one of Concert Halls Hauskapellmeister, and there is little wrong with the Amsterdam orchestra, but the Hamburg orchestra that accompanies Ms Alarie in the remaining arias seems to be better and the conducting is vital. The recording is closer and for a 1952 recording it is impressive. Just listen to the introduction to Martern aller Arten

Pierrette Alaries voice type should have made her more a natural choice for Blonde, but she certainly has the measure for Konstanze too. It is, to be honest, a hell of a role, with dramatic-tragic outbursts as well as coloratura and requires brilliant top as well as contralto bottom. Ms Alarie manages even the lowest notes but they are undoubtedly rather sketchy. Anyway she impresses greatly. She is even more in her natural element as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, and the recording also includes the recitative, even though the tracklist doesnt say so. Lovely singing. 

To include the complete B Minor Mass in a box devoted to the soprano and the tenor might be regarded as presumptuous, but it is not too bad a reading as a whole, even though it feels a bit old-fashioned. Walter Goehr had deep insight in both old and new music and in the early 1950s he made the first - I believe - recording of Monteverdis Lincoronazione di Poppea. I own a highlights disc and it seems to me more authentic than the Glyndebourne version recorded by EMI ten years later. Goehr also recorded a splendid Schöpfung for Concert Hall - the last thing he did before his untimely death in 1960. His Bach can appear as rather heavy and sometimes plodding but his modern instrument orchestra play with some sense of baroque style and there are some very good instrumental solos. The chorus has power but is a bit uneven; there are some squally sopranos sticking out here and there. The overall impression is more than acceptable but I wouldnt regard it as a recommended version with such keep competition as there is today. Gloria in excelsis with jubilant trumpets and a springy Cum sancto spiritu are however well worth a listen. 

Of the soloists Pierrette Alarie is splendid in duets as well as in solos. Simoneau unfortunately is not on best form in Benedictus. He is uncharacteristically strained and uncomfortable. Grace Hoffman sings adequately but is uninspired. Heinz Rehfuss, on the other hand, proves once again that he was one of the best baroque singers of the 1950s. He had a lightness and warmth that few others could muster. Et in spiritum sanctum is probably the best thing in the whole work. The sound is much better here than in the Mozart, which was recorded at the same time - I guess: they have adjacent catalogue numbers. The sound, though rather flat, is much better than on the Mozart disc. 

The Mozart songs are pure joy with a fresh Ridente la calma and a humorous Männer suchen stets zu naschen. Incidentally tracks 12 and 13 on CD 3 are printed in the wrong order. The header to this review is correct. Simoneau also stands out as a superb Lieder singer and his Abendempfindung can challenge any version I have in my collection. The singers, joining their voices for a duet for life as Denis Alarie puts it in the liner notes, are truly well matched in the Schumann duets, rarely heard but lovely. Just try Wiegenlied and Liebesgarten and Im sure you will be hooked. Unfortunately there is some distortion here too. Both the Mozart and the Schumann are CBC recordings. 

The material on CD 4 is from live broadcasts, as can be seen in the header. The finale of Beethovens Ninth gets a taut and vital reading in more than acceptable sound. The timing, 27:18, might indicate that it is slow but the length is due to extended applause and a radio announcer afterwards, giving details of the performance in both French and English. The chorus, un-credited in the notes, is a well-drilled body and the soloists - at the time possibly the four best Canadian singers - are well in the picture. Maureen Forresters rounded voice is only briefly heard. This solo part requires a top singer but at most performances one only sees the world famous artist. Joseph Rouleau has a tentative start to his solo - I suppose a microphone wasnt on - and he is a bit four-square. Simoneau is an ardent tenor soloist, slightly strained at the top while his wife effortlessly sails up to that high B on Flügel. 

Fifteen years earlier Léopold Simoneau was Oedipus in a broadcast concert performance of Oedipus Rex in Paris. This is an historically interesting recording, with the composer conducting and the author narrating. They recorded it commercially for CBS a couple of years later with Peter Pears as Oedipus, Marta Mödl as Jocasta and Heinz Rehfuss as Creon, but here it is sung in French and hearing Simoneau singing the title role in glorious voice is a real treat. The supporting singers are good without being exceptional, Zareska a bit throaty, and it is another treat to hear Cocteaus lively and involved narration. The sound is again, for such an early recording, quite remarkable. 

There is a lot of valuable material here and it is a pity that the quality of the transfers isnt better. I hope volume two will be better in that respect. There are still appetizing things to expect: from the Concert Hall catalogue including a Carmen and a Les contes dHoffmann, extensive highlights from Faust and, if I am not mistaken, Handels Messiah. 

Göran Forsling 




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