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Opium - Mélodies Françaises
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
À Chloris [3:01]
L'heure exquise (Chansons grises, no.5) [2:13]
Fêtes galantes (Mandoline) (1892) [1:46]
Quand je fus pris au pavillon (Douze rondels, no.8) [1:02]
Offrande (1891) [2:31]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
Sombrero (1894) [1:35]
Mignonne (1894) [2:53]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Elégie (1869) [3:09] ²
Nuit d'Espagne (1869) [3:24]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Nell Op.18 No.1 (1880) [1:35]
Automne Op.18 No.3 (1880) [2:36]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Le Colibri Op.2 No.7 [2:56]
Le temps de lilas [3:44]
Les Papillons Op.2 No.3 [1:06]
Les heures Op.27 No.1 [3:04]
André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Viens, une flûte invisible (1900) [2:45] ³
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Tournoiement 'Songe d'opium' Op.26 No.6 (Mélodies persanes, 1870) [2:37]
Violons dans le soir (1907) [5:11] ¹
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Romance (Deux Romance No.2, 1891) [1:54]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
Sonnet (Amours, Premier Livre, CLXIX) [3:15]
Guillaume LEKEU (1870-1894)
Sur une tombe (Trois poèmes, No.1 - 1892) [3:54]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Nocturne (1884) [3:32]
Gabriel DUPONT (1878-1914)
Les donneurs de Sérénade (Mandoline) (1901) [2:19]
Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Lied maritime Op.43 [2:34]
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor)
Jérôme Ducros (piano)
Renaud Capuçon (violin) ¹ and Gautier Capuçon (cello) ²
Emmanuel Pahud (flute) ³
rec. Chambre Syndicale Typographie Parisienne, Salle Akustica, July 2008
VIRGIN CLASSICS 2166212 [66:06]
Experience Classicsonline

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 in 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 Colibri 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 the 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' which is dashingly dispatched and full of immense brio. It was wise for the duo to have taken on Lekeu’s Sur une tombe as so few of his songs, as opposed to his instrumental music, are known. It’s sung and played with generous romanticism and lyric grace.

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. And there are semi-rarities in the shape of the D’Indy and Dupont and Dukas songs - the last named composer’s Sonnet is 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.

Jonathan Woolf  



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