Satie’s Socrate - French Song Cycles -
Jacques de MENASCE (1905 – 1960)
1. Deux Lettres d’Enfants (1954) [2:29]
Lettre de Béatrice
Lettre de Christian
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841 – 1894)
from Six Mélodies (1890)
2. Les Cigales [2:49]
3. Villanelles des petits canards [2:08]
4. Pastorales des cochons roses [4:33]
5. Ballade des gros dindons [3:11]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892 – 1955)
Saluste du Bartas (1941)
6. Le Château du Bartas [1:10]
7. Tout le long de la Baïse [1:26]
8. Le départ [1:06]
9. La promenade [1:24]
10. Nérac en fête [0:46]
11. Duo [2:11]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869 – 1937)
12. Le Bachelier de Salamanque (1919) [1:40]
Francis POULENC (1899 – 1963)
13. ’C’ (1943) [2:43]
14. A sa guitare (1935) [2:47]
Erik SATIE (1866 – 1925)
Trois Mélodies (1916)
15. Daphënéo [1:19]
16. La Statue de Bronze [1:53]
17. Le Chapelier [1:10]
18. Air du Rat [0:49]
19. Spleen [0:47]
20. La Grenouille américaine [1:04]
21. Air du Poète [0:49]
22. Chanson du Chat [0:47]
Socrate. Drame Symphonique avec voix (1919)
23. I. Portrait de Socrate (Le Banquet) [5:52]
24. II. Bords de L’Ilissus (Phédon) [7:37]
25. III. Mort de Socrate (Phédon) [16:00]
Hugues Cuenod (tenor); Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
rec. 1977 or prior. Published in 1985
French texts and English translations enclosed
NIMBUS NI 5027 [68:40]
This recital by Hugues Cuenod and Geoffrey Parsons, dating from 1977, preserves musicianship of the highest quality in performances of music that is effervescent and droll, or plangent and deep. It helps that the selected songs are, in the main, less well-known.
Not many will have heard of Jacques de Menasce, for example, whose witty children’s ‘thank you’ letters are based on texts he actually received from the children of fellow composer Daniel Lesur. How charming is the repetition of ‘…et vous en remercions beaucoup.’ in the second, which is suffused with Poulencian wit. In the Chabrier settings one admires the balance of pianism and vocal qualities equally, which both need to function if these ‘barnyard’ settings are fully to work. Fortunately, as noted, Parsons is fully equipped and his deft pianism plays its considerable share in the performance’s success. The halting villanelle for the ducks is a winner, the rosy pigs are quite mellifluous – maybe unexpectedly – and the movement for the turkey-cocks quotes Mozart. What more could one want?
Honegger’s Saluste du Bartas, composed in 1941, consists of six very brief settings which are villanelles again, this time by Pierre Dedat de Monlaur. The first starts off like a Swiss Percy Grainger but they’re, despite the brevity, compacted with style and élan, notably the glittering turmoil of the fifth setting. These are well worth a place on the recital stage, but difficult, one assumes, to programme satisfactorily. It’s certainly not fanciful to hear the tidal waves pounding through the sole Roussel setting, which talks of an admiral’s daughter. Poulenc’s ‘C’ wears its hints of medieval balladry adeptly, espousing a continuum of suffering from ancient times to nearer our own, conveyed with rich directness, so too the uncanny imitations of a guitar in the companion poem.
The rest of the disc is given over to Satie. There’s salty wit in the central setting of La Statue de Bronze from Trois Mélodies. In the Ludions songs – with the first called Air du Rat you can’t go far wrong, in French or English – one also gets a Yankee university song and plenty of saucy badinage all round, in fact. Socrate. Drame Symphonique avec voix (1919) is meatier stuff obviously, in three movements, the last of which lasts 16 minutes, which is significantly more than the first two combined. The first part sets a eulogy of Socrates by his favourite pupil, Alcibaides. The second is a dialogue between Socrates and another of his pupils, Phaedrus. The final section is the death of Socrates in the form of a monologue by Phaedro, another philosopher. The music is highly effective, the second movement in particular evoking conversational and noble qualities with considerable subtlety of expression. The final movement is the cumulative centre of gravity though, a slow recessional, the ebbing away of Socrates’ life by suicide – the final movements mirrored by the ascent of the voice (perfect for Cuenod of course, and his extraordinary disembodied tone) and the slow slipping away of the piano’s bass figures. Deeply impressive, though not at all indulged or lachrymose.
Thankfully full texts and translations are provided, though Cuenod’s diction is excellent, as is the recording quality. Specialists and generalists on the prowl for unfamiliar French repertoire should (re)acquaint themselves with this fine disc.
Specialists and generalists on the prowl for unfamiliar French repertoire should (re)acquaint themselves with this fine disc.