Naturally one’s first thought about a hothouse French programme
such as this one concerns the Baroque specialist Jaroussky’s
brazenly ‘modernist’ repertoire. How will the counter-tenor
deal with the languid, languorous and the erotic that are enshrined
within and will the voice sound incongruous? It’s a question
that some asked when David Daniels ventured on this repertoire,
in recital and on disc for Virgin, but he sounded almost as much
at home as he did in the twentieth century English songs he sometimes
essays, so it’s really more a question of command over
the idioms concerned rather than anything intrinsically to do
with the voice.
Let me first say that this is a very cunningly programmed disc.
Beginning with the Baroque evocations of Hahn’s À Chloris
which is sung exquisitely - is a way of acknowledging Jaroussky’s
primary area of reportorial expertise whilst simultaneously using
the dappled anachronisms to launch himself into the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries with florid expression and a true
sense of homecoming. Thence we are pitched straight into the
tumultuous brio of Chaminade’s 1894 Sombrero
which Jaroussky is vibrantly assisted by Jérôme
Ducros who himself pays homage to the pianist-composer with playing
of fusillading brilliance. Chausson’s beautiful song Le
is sung and played with sensitive refinement though
some may feel that the ebullient Ducros overdoes things in Fauré’s Automne.
In Hahn’s Fêtes galantes
we find Jaroussky
contending with one of the potentially limiting factors regarding
a counter-tenor in this kind of repertoire - a lack of timbral
colour. One feels him trying for larger and wider colours toward
the lower end of his range but in the topmost part of the voice
there can be a very slight but discernable lack of variety. It
seldom really intrudes but ought to be noted. Sometimes, too,
as in Saint-Saëns’s Violons dans le soir
voice can tense under pressure. Conversely he proves a most communicative
and generous spirited artist in such as Hahn’s Quand
je fus pris au pavillon
and he and Ducros go for broke in
Saint-Saëns’s Tournoiement 'Songe d'opium'
is dashingly dispatched and full of immense brio. It was wise
for the duo to have taken on Lekeu’s Sur une tombe
so few of his songs, as opposed to his instrumental music, are
known. It’s sung and played with generous romanticism and
Renaud and Gautier Capuçon join the Jaroussky-Ducros duo
for a couple of items as does Emmanuel Pahud (flute) in Caplet’s
delightful Viens, une flûte invisible.
are semi-rarities in the shape of the D’Indy and Dupont
and Dukas songs - the last named composer’s Sonnet
a mini-masterpiece. Try to hear it.
I can well anticipate the objections to this disc; wrong voice
for the repertoire, lack of optimum colouristic potential for
late-Romantic French chanson, occasional pronunciation problems
especially high up the range, and some over-muscular pianism.
Still, for me, the results are exciting and vibrant, the apparent
mismatch between voice and chanson no mismatch at all, and the
excellent recording and production values - trilingual texts
- a decided asset.