Sandrine Piau - Après un rêve
Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
1. Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3 [2:50]
2. Das Geheimnis, Op. 17 No. 3 [2:16]
3. Morgen! Op. 27 No. 4 [3:30]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 – 1924)
4. Après un rêve, Op. 7 No. 1 [2:30]
5. Clair de lune, Op. 46 No. 2 [2:57]
6. Les Berceaux, Op. 23 No. 1 [2:34]
7. Nachtlied, Op. 71 No. 6 [2:43]
8. Neue Liebe, Op. 19 No. 4 [2:06]
9. Schlafloser Augen Leuchte [2:17]
10. Hexenlied, Op. 8 No. 8 [2:20]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855 – 1899)
11. Amour d’antan, Op. 8 No. 2 [3:00]
12. Dans la forêt du charme et de l’enchantement, Op. 36 No. 2 [2:40]
13. Les Heures, Op. 27 No. 1
Vincent BOUCHOT (b. 1966)
14. Mondendinge [1:50]
15. Der Hecht [1:06]
16. Die Mitternachtsmaus [3:00]
17. Das Wasser [0:57]
18. Galgenkindes Wiegenlied [1:24]
Francis POULENC (1899 – 1963)
19. Montparnasse [3:02]
20. Hyde Park [0:51]
21. C [3:08]
22. Fêtes galantes [1:00]
Benjamin BRITTEN* (1913 – 1976)
23. The Salley Gardens [2:20]
24. There’s None to Soothe [1:27]
25. I Wonder as I Wander [3:30]
* arrangement
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Susan Manoff (piano)
rec. June 2010 at MC2, Grenoble, France
Sung texts and French and English translations enclosed
NAÏVE V 5250 [59:00]

Sandrine Piau made a name for herself primarily in baroque music. Her discography embraces music by Rameau, Handel, Purcell, Bach and Couperin, but she has also ventured into the classicist period and sung Haydn and Mozart. Nor should we forget her engagement with operetta by Offenbach, Les Illuminations by Britten and a mixed recital entitled ‘Évocation’, that can be seen as a forerunner to the present issue.

Schooled in the baroque tradition she has all the well-known attributes: cleanness of tone, perfect intonation, agility and a wealth of soft nuance. To this can be added a wonderful sense of style and an intelligent use of the texts. Far from unimportant, she also knows how far she can press her voice without distorting the music with ugly vibrato and shrillness. She is a balanced singer, which may sound less than enthusiastic. On the contrary her singing is full of expressive life. There is also a slight tendency – not uncommon among baroque specialists – to squeeze the tone. In the Strauss songs this affects the legato and becomes detrimental their character. They are, however, extremely sensitive readings, and for the rest of the programme I have nothing but praise.

Her Fauré, for instance, is superb. Fresh and even brilliant is her interpretation of Après un rêve. ‘You were radiant as a sky illuminated by the dawn’, she sings and her tone is ... radiant. The moon in Clair de lune is ‘Calm, sad and lovely’ ... draws sobs of ecstasy from the fountains’. The glitter of the water is heard in her tone.

Mendelssohn also suits her to perfection. ‘From afar comes the sound of bells’, she sings in Nachtlied and the bells are there in her voice. Neue Liebe is all smiles and enjoyment, elfin and weightless – a streak of dark foreboding apart. Schlafloser Augen Leuchte is melancholy and chilly. Hexenlied is dramatic and frightening, Hölty’s poem a tour de force of witchcraft.

Chausson’s music is often perfumed and so are the three songs here. The composer seems today largely forgotten. Once upon a time at least his marvellous Poéme for violin and orchestra was quite frequently heard. Today it seems to have disappeared from the standard repertoire. This is a great pity since there must be many music-lovers for whom his kind of late romanticism tinged with more than a teaspoon of impressionism would be the perfect mix.

Vincent Bouchot’s cycle Galgenlieder is something quite different. In the composer’s own brief liner-notes he says that the ‘style is thoroughly old-fashioned, somewhere between Wolf and Poulenc’. This no doubt implies that they are easily accessible even to listeners with no interest in ‘contemporary music’. There is no indication that this is a premiere recording but the cycle is definitely a fine addition to the repertoire. Song recitals should not be museum experiences, we need fresh air as well. Bouchot’s songs admirably fill such a need.

It is quite logical to follow this cycle with some ‘real’ Poulenc - as always so refreshing. His songs, many of them at least, are firmly established as standards but they are naughty and refractory enough not to have entered the museum realm. I love Fauré, I love Duparc, I love Hahn, I love ... you just name them and I love them, but Poulenc always makes my pulse beat more rapidly. Fêtes galantes (tr. 22) is a perfect eye-opener: whirling away effortlessly and then stopping abruptly.

And finally Britten. Maybe it’s unfair that it is always his folksong arrangements that make the greatest impression – but they are marvellous. The Salley Gardens was also included in Maria Forsström’s recital Kaleidoscope that I reviewed some time ago. ‘The most beautiful reading I’ve heard!’ I wrote then. Very different but equally satisfying is Sandrine Piau’s version.

Sandrine Piau’s technical command cannot be questioned and she combines it with deep insight and a real sense of style. With some reservations - centring on her Strauss, and that may be just my personal taste - this is a delectable programme, delectably performed. Susan Manoff is an ever-responsive accompanist. With recorded sound that leaves nothing to be wished, full texts and translations and brief but excellent notes this recital can safely be sought out by all lovers of Lieder and Mélodies.

Göran Forsling

A delectable programme, delectably performed.