Paul LE FLEM (1881-1984)
Aucassin et Nicolettechantefable (1910) [41:40]
1 - Prologue (4'41)
2 - Première Partie (12'08)
3 - Deuxième Partie (13'08)
4 - Troisième Partie (11'33)
Delphine Haidan (mezzo)
Stanislas de Barbeyrac (tenor)
Mélanie Boisvert (soprano)
Armand Arapian (baritone)
Katia Velletaz (soprano)
Les Solistes de Lyon/Bernard Tétu
Orchestre des Pays de Savoie/Nicolas Chalvin
rec. Chaméry, Cité des Arts, 18-20 May 2011
TIMPANI 1C1188 [41:40]

Timpani has cornered the market in revivals of Gallic musical reputations. Their focus has been on the 20th century generation of French composers who lived in the shadow of Ravel and Debussy. In addition they are kind to benighted Anglophones by providing translations of French texts and essays. This is especially valuable here. The essay for this Le Flem disc is by Michel Fleury. With Harry Halbreich he stands as the pathfinder and authority equivalent in France of Lewis Foreman in the UK.

The Breton Celtic connection unites the likes of Cras, Ropartz and Le Flem. The music is transparently orchestrated and recorded. Piquantly diaphanous scoring lights up this silhouette-play based on the thirteenth century love story Aucassin et Nicolette. Its world while hardly a slavish facsimile owes something to Ravel. The score glimmers and glows and even when the voices are centre-stage the orchestral detail is communicated. Part I ends with the sort of orchestral chant favoured by Bax in his Fifth Symphony. Much play is made of the harp and of harp-like effects from the sparkling piano. This is notably encountered in the Prologue and in the Part III introduction where the use of the piano recalls its role in the glittering Winter Legends by Arnold Bax. In Part III there is some truly ravishing singing of the most lissom lyrical ideas – not Puccini but superbly weighted, timed and emotionally well judged. Its inspired combination of plot content and melody may also be due to the fact that it was written shortly after Le Flem had married: young love.

By coincidence this disc was issued in the same month as Dutton’s recording of Holbrooke’s own 1935 Anton Dolin ballet music for Aucassin et Nicolette.

Rob Barnett

Superbly weighted, timed and emotionally well judged. A passionate legend.