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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Marianne Fiset (soprano)
Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)
Shéhérazade (1903) [16:56]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
Proses lyriques (1894) [21:01]
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Song to the Moon (Rusalka), op.114 (1900) [7:31]

Marianne Fiset (soprano), Marie-Ève Scarfone (piano)
Orchestre de la Francophonie Canadienne/Jean-Philippe Tremblay
rec. 19-21 September 2007, Église Saint-Benoît de Mirabel, Québec, DDD
ANALEKTA AN28761 [45:28] 

Experience Classicsonline


Québec
-born Marianne Fiset has recently won several prizes – the First Grand Prize of the Montreal International Musical Competition, the Jean A Charles Prize for the best Canadian artist, the Joseph Rouleau Prize for best artist from Québec, the Poulenc French Song Award and the People’s Choice Award in May 2007. More recently she was named Young Soloist 2008 by the Public Francophonie Radios (Radio France, Radio Suisse–Romande, RTBF Belgium and Radio–Canada). The best news of all is that she thoroughly deserves everything she has received for she has a voice of power and purity, strength but gentleness, and this recital is a real winner. 

Hearing Ravel’s orchestral song–cycle Shéhérazade with piano accompaniment is an ear–opener for we can concentrate, entirely, on the voice without being distracted by Ravel’s rich orchestration. This is very helpful when hearing a new voice for the first time. The long first song, Asie is built gradually, the descriptions of Asia slowly coming into focus until the big climax, at the words “Je voudrais voir mourir d’amour ou bien de haine” (I would like to see death caused by love or even by hate), she lets loose a superbly sustained top register, full of emotion and wonder. The climax, which is fully scored in the orchestral version fares well in this performance, it’s obviously not piano music but it worksl. The coda, full of the thoughts of story telling is well controlled and is tinged with fatigue. Fabulous singing! It’s hard to believe that a song called The Enchanted Flute could work without a solo flute but so sensitive is Marie–Ève Scarfone’s playing that I was never conscious of something missing in this performance. 

“I waken…
And hear outside
The song of a flute pour forth
By turns sadness and joy.” 

Fiset sings, imagining her lover playing the instrument and the notes being kisses landing on her cheek. L’indifférent (The Indifferent One) is all restraint, but not despair at parting. 

“…remain
On my doorstep and I will watch you depart,
Making a last graceful gesture to me…” 

Here Fiset hits the right tone of I couldn’t care less/I want you but can’t tell you and the short instrumental epilogue sounds as if the loved one were walking into the distance. 

Debussy’s Proses lyriques is an early set of four songs to texts by the composer himself. He was well acquainted with impressionist painters and Symbolist poets so it is, perhaps, no surprise that Debussy would, at some point, create some words of his own to set to music. Certainly these words are highly perfumed, but the music isn’t, and in the long run it might be best to ignore the words and simply enjoy the wonderful songs as pure music. After all, Debussy wrote, “…Good heavens, music is the dream from which the veil is lifted! It is not even the expression of feeling, it is feeling itself.” So as Debussy writes, 

“Dusk falls like tattered
White silk on the sea
The waves chatter like silly
Little girls let out of school
In their lustrous frilly
Green silk dresses.” 

he sets the words to music of such insouciance that we are not concerned with the meaning of the words, rather the sound they make when wedded to the music. This is a fine performance.

For some strange reason the disk ends with Song to the Moon from Rusalka. It sits uncomfortably beside two such strong works of French impressionism, and it seems very old hat indeed! It’s very lovely but this isn’t the place for it. The Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne, under its director Jean–Philippe Tremblay accompany well, and I’d love to hear it in some symphonic repertoire for their playing is very first–rate and well worth hearing.

 

This is every inch Fiset’s disk and it’s a good debut. This is a voice which will go far and I do hope that she will not give all her time to the opera for there are some of us who treasure song and there simply aren’t enough singers today giving us good song recitals.

 

The sound is very good, the balance between voice and piano, and orchestra, is excellent. The notes are good too. Indeed, everything about this disk makes it well worth having.
 
Bob Briggs
 


 


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