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Mélodies
Songs by Gabriel Fauré and Henri Duparc
see end of review for listing
Hugues Cuénod (tenor)
Martin Isepp (piano) – Fauré
Geoffrey Parsons (piano) - Duparc
rec. Nimbus Studios, Birmingham CD 1: 16-17 October 1972 (Trs. 1-15); 9 March 1973 (Trs. 16-24); CD 2: 16-17 October 1972 (trs. 1-4); 9 March 1973 (5-12); Wyastone Leys, Monmouth 8 June 1978 ((13-20)
Texts provided; translations available online via; http://lieder.net/
NIMBUS NI 5736-37 [65:03 + 62:57]

Experience Classicsonline


It seems appropriate, given the recent death of Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod (1902-2010) to remind readers of his fruitful association with Nimbus throughout the 1970s. This double disc of mélodies was recorded at various points between the years 1972 and 1978 but there is little real deterioration in Cuénod’s voice — the fact that he modestly denied having much of a voice at all should be taken with a large pinch of salt or, rather, that his characteristically nasal voice was of such an individual sound that it makes comparisons unprofitable.
 
The majority of the songs here are by Fauré, though there are eight by Duparc whose mélodies were the last to be recorded. I think one could reasonably take Après un rêve, one of the composer’s most well known songs, as an index of Cuénod’s Fauré singing. It’s sung with directness, an unruffled simplicity shorn of all artifice, and promotes clarity of textual meaning without in any way introducing artificial or intrusive vowel or consonant sounds. It is also unsentimental, unshowy singing, not at all beautiful as such, in terms of voice production, range or tone, and occasionally pinched, reedy and nasal at the top of the range. The voice nevertheless commands the greatest respect because of its sincerity of purpose.
 
Cuénod could also display commendable vigour, despite his age at the time of the recordings. There’s real youthful brio in Nell and he is careful that rhythmic suppleness is addressed in Mandoline, the first of the Verlaine set called Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’. At his weakest, and there are few such moments, the voice takes on an insistent and too penetrating quality — Green from the same set is a culprit in this respect — and there are moments when the music calls for a greater range of tone colours and bloom than he can supply at the age of seventy, if indeed he was ever able to do so. So La bonne Chanson emerges as unevenly sung in these respects. Puisque l’aube grandit, for instance, is done with great articulacy, its meaning conveyed with adroit perception, but it’s not very warmly sung, and there’s significant strain in the voice at certain key moments. One could perhaps hardly expect otherwise, but I mention it for those as yet unfamiliar with Cuénod’s art and indeed with these particular late recordings that enshrine it.
 
At his best he evinces a confident and direct sincerity that is very telling. I particularly admired L’horizon chimérique for this quality and it’s something he brings to the Duparc too. Here we notice the change of acoustic, since he was taped at Wyastone Leys, not in the Birmingham studios. The tone is thinner still now, but the sensibility intact, the sinewy control in something like Le manoir de Rosemonde still powerfully at work. In the Duparc settings he’s accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons and in the Fauré, in their entirety, by Martin Isepp. Both were musicians of long experience and are wholly at one with Cuénod.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Lydia (Lisle) op.4 no.2 (c.1870) [2.47]
Au bord de l’eau (Prudhomme) op.8 no.1 (1875) [2.12]
Après un rêve (Bussine) op.7 no.1 (c.1878) [2.44]
Nell (Lisle) op.18 no.1 (1878) [2.15]
Automne (Silvestre) op.18 no.3 (1878) [2.56]
Aurore (Silvestre) op.39 no.1 (1884) [2.40]
Les roses d’Ispahan (Lisle) op.39 no.4 (1884) [3.11]
Les présents (Adam) op.46 no.1 (1887) [1.57]
Clair de lune (Verlaine) op.46 no.2 (1887) [3.14]
Spleen (Verlaine) op.51 no.3 (1888) [2.55]
Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’ op.58 (Verlaine)
I Mandoline [2.00]
II En sourdine [4.04]
III Green [2.00]
IV À Clymène [3.27]
V C’est l’extase [4.09]
La bonne Chanson op.61 (Verlaine) (1892-4)
I Une Sainte en son aureole [2.13]
II Puisque l’aube grandit [2.03]
III La lune blanche luit dans les bois [2.33]
IV J’allais par des chemins perfides [1.53]
V J’ai presque peur, en vérité [2.18]
VI Avant que tu ne t’en ailes [2.54]
VII Donc, ce sera par un clair jour d’été [2.54]
VIII N’est-ce-pas? [2.34]
IX L’hiver a cessé [3.24]
Prison (Verlaine) op.83 no.1 (1894) [2.48]
Soir (Samain) op.83 no.2 (1894) [2.53]
Le parfum impérissable (Lisle) op.76 no.1 (1897) [2.50]
Le plus doux chemin (Silvestre) op.87 no.1 (1904) [1.43]
Mirages op.113 (Brimont) (1919)
I Cygne sur l’eau [3.28]
II Reflets dans l’eau [4.27]
III Jardin nocturne [3.15]
IV Danseuse [2.34]
L’horizon chimérique op.118 (Mirmont) (1921)
I La mer est infinite [1.42]
II Je me suis embarqué [2.35]
III Diane, Séléné [2.19]
IV Vaisseaux, nous vous aurons aimés [1.51]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Chanson triste (Lahor) (c.1868) [3.42]
Soupir (Prudhomme) (c.1869) [3.43]
L’invitation au voyage (Baudelaire) (c.1870) [4.43]
Élégie (Moore) (c.1874) [3.01]
Extase (Lahor) (c.1874) [3.39]
Le manoir de Rosemonde (Bonnières) (c.1879) [2.32]
Phidylé (Lisle) (1882) [5.35]
Lamento (Gautier) (c.1883) [3.35]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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