Firebirds of Paris - Operatic Excerpts
See below review for list of contents
rec. 1927-1949
MARSTON 51008-2 [79:18]

This disc celebrates a Franco-Russian musical alliance via recordings made by French and Belgian singers of exclusively Russian music. All the operatic extracts and arias and songs are sung in French, as was then customary. Regarding the closeness of culture between the two countries Diaghilev, of course, was a pivotal mover and shaker, an impresario whose reach extended beyond ballet to productions at the Paris Opera. But the Opéra-Comique was also putting on Russian works in the first decade of the twentieth century, and after the Russian Revolution Paris became one of the two most important European cities - Berlin was the other - for Russian émigrés. The Opéra russe de Paris was heard at numerous venues and other companies were founded to present a range of operatic works. The ventures are well detailed in the booklet notes to this release, fully up to Marston’s very high standards

The singers are an intriguing mix of the highly distinguished, admired and also little known. Vanni-Marcoux is typically elegant, warm toned, vivid, and pliant, in his Boris extract though some will not take the bleat. Bass Albert Huberty enunciates very cleanly, and proves a powerful, declamatory presence. A lighter bass was Fred Bordon, though he is theatrically persuasive in his own way. Chaliapin’s is the name that lingers over these representations from Boris and it’s André Pernet who most nearly approximates his degree of histrionic drama. Spread over two sides this 1930 Odeon argues persuasively in Pernet’s favour as a ‘singing actor’ of power and reach. Bass-baritone Jean Aquistapace also has the musicianship to cope with the demands of what we should properly call, in this linguistic context, ‘Les adieux et la mort de Boris’.

Livine Mertens exercises a well sustained chest voice in her Tchaikovsky extract and she’s followed immediately by the lyrical tones of André D’Arkor. Rather like Vanni-Marcoux, Charles Friant has a bit of an insistent vibrato but he’s urgent, and eager, despite the slack orchestral support. There are two examples of Ninon Vallin’s art - sparkling and atmospheric - and a single one of Georges Thill. These two artists represent the comfortable centrality of French singing but bass François Audiger is little known, and biographical details are sketchy. Georges Jouatte has personality in spades in his Song of the Flea, Souzay is simply superb in his None but the lonely heart on a 1948 French Decca, whilst Renée Doria goes high and pure in Rimsky’s The rose and the nightingale. Twenty years earlier soprano Claudine Boons had proved equally effective in her Rachmaninoff setting.

These items were all recorded between 1927 and 1949 with a range of accompanists and orchestras. The transfers are vivid, sacrifice no treble and have the voice centre-stage. This important cultural phenomenon has been nicely compiled and collated, and beautifully presented.

Jonathan Woolf

List of contents
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Boris Godunov; Mon cœur est triste [Coronation Scene] Prologue [2:59]
Vanni-Marcoux (bass); 8 June 1934; HMV (2 PG 1648-1) DB 4950
Sous les murs de Kazan [Chanson de Varlaam] Act I [2:31]
Albert Huberty (bass); 1929; Pathé (201919) X 0677
J’ai le pouvoir suprême, Act II [5:47]
Fred Bordon (bass); 15 May 1930; Columbia (WL 2294-1/WL 2295-1) RF 2
Scène du carillon, Act II [3:41]
André Pernet (bass); 23 October 1930; Odeon (XXP 7149-1) 123.723
Laissez-nous seuls … Sortez, boyards [Les adieux et la mort de Boris]; Act IV [8:48]
Jean Aquistapace (bass-baritone); 1929; Pathé (201820/201819) X 7189
Pyotr Ilyich TCHIAKOVSKY (1840-1893)
La Dame de Pique; Romance de Pauline, Act I [2:40]
Livine Mertens (mezzo); 6 May 1930; Columbia (WLB 66-1) RF 19
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Prince Igor; Lentement baisse le jour [Recitatif et cavatine de Vladimir] Act II [3:21]
André D’Arkor (tenor); 20 November 1930; Columbia (WLB 139-2) RF 27
Hélas, mon âme est triste … Tendre épouse, Act II [7:50]
Pierre Nougaro (baritone); 11 October 1930; Parlophone (95567-2/95574)
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Nuit de Mai; Air de Levko, Act III [4:22]
Charles Friant (tenor); 24 April 1928; Odeon (XXP6656) 171.027
Snegurochka; Le nuage a dit un jour au tonnerre [Chanson de Lel] Act III [3:24]
Ninon Vallin (soprano); 24 October 1927; Odeon (XXP 6516-1) 171.026
Sadko; Les diamants chez nous sont innombrables [Chant hindou] Scene IV [3:35]
Georges Thill (tenor); 9 October 1933; Columbia (CLX 1735-1) LFX 336
Le Coq d’or; Salut à toi, soleil [Hymne au soleil] Act II [3:10]
Eidé Norena (soprano); 8 December 1930; Odeon (KI 3938-2) 188.796
Les haleurs de la Volga [Song of the Volga boatmen] [3:43]
François Audiger (bass); 1932; Polydor (5488 BKP) 522310
Chanson de la puce [Song of the flea] [2:56]
Georges Jouatte (tenor); 1 December 1930; Odeon (KI 3935-1) 188.793
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Chanson géorgienne [3:32]
Ninon Vallin (soprano); 15 December 1931; Odeon (XXP 7312-2) 123.708
Anton Grigorievich RUBINSTEIN (1829 - 1894)
Extase, op. 34, no. 9 [4:32]
Charles Soix (bass); 28 May 1946; Pathé (CPTX 624-1) PDT 112
Ah! Qui brūla d’amour [None but the lonely heart] [3:19]
Gérard Souzay (baritone); 10 August 1948; French Decca (FDR 3-1) AF 187
La rose et le rossignol, op. 2, no. 2 [The rose and the nightingale] [3:09]
Renée Doria (soprano); 3 October 1949; Pathé (CPT 7197-1) PD 101
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Les lilas, op. 21, no. 5 [Lilacs] [1:21]
Germaine Cernay (mezzo-soprano); 29 September 1930; Odeon (KI 3670-2)
Ō mon champ bien-aimé, op. 4, no. 5 [Harvest of sorrow] [4:28]
Claudine Boons (soprano); 1929; Polydor (2160 BMP) 566091
Accompaniment: Track 1: orchestra, conducted by Piero Coppola; Tracks 2 and 5:
orchestra; Track 3: orchestra, conducted by Joseph-Eugène Szyfer; Tracks 4,
9-10, 12, 14, and 15: orchestra, conducted by Gustave Cloëz; Track 6: piano,
Fernand Goeyens; Track 7: orchestra of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie,
conducted by Maurice Bastin; Track 8: orchestra, conducted by Maurice Frigara;
Track 11: orchestra, conducted by Eugène Bigot; Tracks 13 and 20: orchestra,
conducted by Florian Weiss; Track 16: piano, André Tournier; Track 17: piano,
Irène Aïtoff; Track 18: piano and flute, piano by Tasso Janopoulo, flutist not
credited; Track 19: piano, Gustave Cloëz
Languages: All tracks in French

This important cultural phenomenon has been nicely compiled and collated, and beautifully presented.