Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 – 1924)
1. Larmes, Op. 51 No. 1 (Jean Richepin) (1888) [2:29]
2. Au cimetière, Op. 51 No. 2 (Jean Richepin) (1888) [3:49]
3. Spleen, Op. 51 No. 3 (Paul Verlaine) (1888) [2:10]
4. La Rose, Op. 51 No. 4 (Leconte de Lisle) (1890) [2:28]
5. Chanson (de Shylock), Op. 57 No. 1 (Edmond Haraucourt) (1889) [1:41]
6. Madrigal (de Shylock), Op. 57 No. 3 (Edmond Haraucourt) (1889) [1:17]
Cinq Mélodies de Venise, Op. 58 (Paul Verlaine) (1891):-
7. Mandoline [1:51]
8. En sourdine [3:22]
9. Green [1:49]
10. À Clymène [2:47]
11. C’est l’extase [3:07]
12. Le Parfum impérissable, Op. 76 No. 1 (Leconte de Lisle) (1897) [2:04]
13. Arpège, Op. 76 No. 2 (Albert Samain) (1897) [2:09]
14. Prison, Op. 83 No. 1 (Paul Verlaine) (1894) [1:56]
15. Soir, Op. 63 No. 2 (Albert Samain) (1894) [2:04]
16. Dans la forét de septembre, Op. 85 No. 1 (Catulle Mendèz) (1902) [2:59]
17. La Fleur qui va sur l’eau, Op. 85 No. 2 (Catulle Mendèz) (1902) [2:06]
18. Accompagnement, Op. 85 No. 3 (Albert Samain) (1902) [3:36]
19. Le Plus Doux Chemin, Op. 87 No. 1 (Armand Silvestre) (1904) [1:15]
20. Le Ramier, Op. 87 No. 2 (Armand Silvestre) (1904) [1:33]
21. Le Don silencieux, Op. 92 (Jean Dominique) (1906) [2:01]
22. Chanson, Op. 94 (Henri Régnier) (1906) [1:28]
Yann Beuron (tenor); Billy Eidi (piano)
rec. Chapelle de l’Hôpital du Bon-Secours, Paris, February 2009
Sung texts enclosed
TIMPANI 1C1162 [51:42]
A few years ago I reviewed a disc with highlights from three Offenbach operettas, culled from complete recordings conducted by Marc Minkowski. The leading tenor in all three was Yann Beuron. He ‘has a small but expressive voice’, I wrote and praised his ‘honeyed solos’ in La belle Hélène. The original recordings were published 1998 – 2005 and since then his voice has obviously grown, but it is still an expressive instrument and the honeyed tones still come easily. Beuron made his debut in 1995 and he appears not only in France but in Germany, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain and the US. He is scheduled to sing at the Salzburg Festival. His discography is extensive and spans works from baroque to 20th century. With Billy Eidi at the piano he has taken part in Timpani’s recording of the complete songs by Albert Roussel. This Fauré disc presents the twenty-two songs in strictly chronological order, which points towards a complete series. In Timpani’s catalogue there are however no previous volumes and Guy Sacre’s comprehensive liner-notes only say that ‘the ambition of this disc was to bring together all the melodies from what is called Fauré’s 3rd Recueil.’ Be that as it may, what is heard here is so immediately captivating that I sincerely hope it isn’t just an isolated phenomenon but the start of a longer term project.
There is no lack of recordings of Fauré’s melodies, but they are – almost all of them – so inspired and attractive and with artistry on this elevated level they stand out even more as masterpieces. Yann Beuron’s voice is today, as I foreshadowed in the first paragraph, powerful but with typical French timbre. It is a flexible instrument that is evenly produced from top to bottom and from pianissimo to fortissimo. From the point of view of sound it could be mistaken for a baryton-martin. His low notes are certainly baritonal but the upper reaches are brilliant lirico spinto notes.
The first song, Larmes is an impressive calling-card, where he amply demonstrates his range and power – and there is no lack of subtlety. Au cimetière is an exquisite study in finely graded nuances and beautiful legato. It then gradually expands in volume and intensity in the 4th and 5th stanzas and then scales down again to an inward last stanza, beautifully poised. The intensity of expression is strongly projected, whether he sings forte or pianissimo. Moreover his enunciation is so clear that even listeners with moderate French knowledge will be able to catch the text. It is a pity, though, that there are no translations enclosed.
His intelligent approach is also obvious in his variation of tone. The two delightful Shylock songs (trs. 5-6) are lighter and more airy, almost casual and they are well characterized.
The crème de la crème – as compositions as well as interpretations – are the 5 Mélodies de Venise to texts by Paul Verlaine (trs. 7–11). Here he relishes the marriage of words and music and caresses the phrases with tangible voluptuousness. Just listen to the last of them, C’est l’extase (tr. 11) – the person who doesn’t capitulate at once has to be thick-skinned indeed.
But every song is performed with similar sensitivity and consideration. Prison (tr. 14), another Verlaine poem, and Soir (tr. 15) are so fragrant and vulnerable, and the concluding seven songs, written just after the turn of the century, show that Fauré’s creative powers were still unbroken also when he approached sixty. The powerfully dramatic reading of La fleur qui va sur l’eau (tr. 17) is another highlight. And this is a characteristic feature of the whole programme: the readings are sensitive but there is at the same time directness in the address that gives the songs freshness and vitality. They are still characteristically atmospheric and slightly elusive but never vapid. Beuron’s intrepidity has blown away some of the mustiness that in some listeners’ ears has surrounded this repertoire.
Performing art songs is of course never a one-man-job. The interaction between singer and pianist has to work smoothly for really memorable results. Billy Eidi and Yann Beuron obviously have that rapport. Eidi plays superbly throughout. Initially I thought the piano was recorded too forwardly but it was only in the first song that I had any complaints. On a second listening I got the same feeling, so it may be that the balance was adjusted. The clarity of the recording allows the listener to hear every detail in the accompaniment and the piano tone is very beautifully and crisply reproduced.
Last year a French recital (Poulenc and Fauré) with the Dutch baritone Thomas Oliemans was one of my Recordings of the Year. It is still early 2010 but the present disc will almost certainly be at least on my shortlist for this year’s best recordings. These are great interpretations of great songs.
Great interpretations of great songs … see Full Review