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Frances Bourne
The Truth about Love

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) orch. Daryl RUNSWICK
Four Cabaret Songs (1937) [14.23]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Barbara Song
(Threepenny Opera) (1928/1934) [4.27] (2); Solomon Song (Threepenny Opera) (1928/1934) [3.27] (2); Pirate Jenny (Threepenny Opera) (1928/1934)[3.21] (2); Complainte de la Seine (1934) [4.06] (1); Je ne t'aime pas (1934) [4.01] (1); L'Homme qu'il me faut [3.41] (1); arr. Robert ZIEGLER September Song (1938) [3.42] (2); Bilbao Song (Happy End) (1929) [3.25] (2); Surabaya Johnny (Happy End) (1929) [5.01] (2)
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Three songs for the Red Seven cabaret (1921) [13.28] (1)
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950), arr. Robert ZIEGLER
Youkali
[5.19] (2); Le Roi d'Aquitaine (Marie Galante) (1934) [2.21] (2); Le Grand Lustcru (Marie Galante) (1934) [3.10] (2); J'attends un navire (Marie Galante) (1934) [4.27] (2)
Frances Bourne (mezzo)
James Holmes (piano) (1); Matrix Ensemble (2)/Robert Ziegler
rec. Townhouse Studios, London, 5-7 March 2008 (2); Champs Hill, West Sussex 29 February 2008 (1)
SONY 88697293431 [78.35] 

 

 

Experience Classicsonline


The young mezzo-soprano Frances Bourne has made this imaginative debut disc, assembling cabaret-influenced songs by Weill, Britten and Martinů.

Britten wrote his cabaret songs, to Auden's texts, in the 1930s. They were written at various times and not intended as a set; indeed some are missing. But his Four Cabaret Songs have become well known and often recorded. Here they are performed in orchestrations by Daryl Runswick. For me, Runswick's versions are a little too clever for their own good; at the opening of each verse he adds little quotations from other music involving love. Bourne's performance of the songs is warm and responsive, though she seems more concerned with a sense of line than emphasising the words. She is slightly let down by her upper register which is more dramatically wayward than is ideal in this type of song.

These are followed by three songs from L'Opera de quat' sous, the French version of Weill and Brecht's Threepenny Opera. Quite why we should want to hear an English mezzo-soprano singing French versions of German songs I don't know. The French language is a little too liquid for these songs; Bourne simply doesn't have the consonants to spit out.

Quite what is wrong is demonstrated in the following songs where Weill was writing to a French text. Complainte de la Seine and Je ne t'aime pas were written for the diseuse Lys Gauty who had recorded songs from  L'Opera de quat' sous. Here Bourne shows herself susceptible to Weill's lovely lines and certainly seduces us. For three songs she is accompanied by the excellent James Holmes on the piano. Otherwise the Matrix Ensemble provide exemplary accompaniments, Weill's orchestrations being played stylishly and straight.

The genuine French songs are followed by French versions of September Song and two items from Happy End, these are frankly curious. Though the inclusion of Happy End does provide a link to the songs from Marie Galante which Bourne sings at the end of the disc, as Weill used Happy End as a source of material for his music for Marie Galante.

Bourne and Holmes then perform three songs by Martinů. Though Martinů had a Parisian sojourn, these songs date from 1921 when he lived in Prague. The songs were written for the subversive Red Seven cabaret and the texts are by poets and journalists. In the first, a summer idyll turns into something worse. In this song Bourne even manages to  duet with herself. Then we get a rather jaundiced view of the denizens of a bar and finally a chunk of social realism in the Miners Song. Of course, these are hardly jazz influenced songs and more of interest for the way they illuminate Martinů's later career. The CD booklet points up links to his opera Julietta, whose libretto was also offered to Kurt Weill.

Finally we return to Weill in French with the songs he wrote for Jacques Deval's play Marie Galante; Weill probably did the job simply for the money. The play's star, Florelle, had appeared  as Polly Peachum in the film of L'Opera de quat'sous. To these Bourne adds Robert Ziegler's orchestration of Weill's French chanson Youkali. These are delightful with Bourne's feeling for Weill's vocal lines and the crisp and stylish accompaniment from Ziegler and the Matrix Ensemble.

There are moments on this disc when I wished that Bourne had a stronger feel for the words, but given that she is singing Brecht in French translation, you have to forgive her. I wish that we'd had the Brecht/Weill songs in German, but with that caveat this is a stylish and enjoyable disc.

Robert Hugill

 


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