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La Belle Excentrique
Patricia Petibon (soprano)
Susan Manoff (piano)
rec. Teldex Studios, Berlin, September 2013
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 2465 [64.52]

I will declare immediately that this delicious album has delighted me more than any other since goodness knows when. It is not only a ‘Recording of the Month’ but will also be one of my six choices of recordings for 2015.

Why the excitement? For me it’s perfect: it’s fun, it’s comic and it’s poignant and romantic. It's performed to perfection by Patricia Petibon who colours her voice to suit all the moods with unashamed abandonment and great élan. She is supported gloriously by pianist Susan Manoff who supplies ideal accompaniments and the many witty solo piano interludes. All this she does with panache and flamboyance. Manoff, herself, is supported by a team of accompanists filling in with many colourful and often eccentric flourishes that capture the ear and feel just right for their songs.

There are saucy songs. Like Joli môme (Pretty Girl) in which Petibon sings with a roguish Olivier Py – “… you’re setting the street on fire, pretty girl You wear your heart on your sleeve, your happiness down below, pretty girl …”; and like Allons –y, Chochette! (‘Let's Do It, Chochotte’), again with a mischievous Py seducing a shrill innocent (?) Chochotte who, when caught and married, wants a son “who’s better than Mozart or Meyerbeer” so she begs him to buy a phonograph and at the psychological moment “… we’ll proceed as your cylinder directs …”
There are tenderly romantic songs too. Like Satie’s lovely waltz song Je te veux (‘I want You’) with cello joining piano and Petibon delivering the song with such tenderness and promise (“… I long for the precious moment when we’ll be happy: I want you …”). Later, with violin and piano, she sings Léo Ferré’s On s’aimera in which a smaller-voiced Petibon repeats her promise that “we shall love each other” through all the seasons of the year.

There are lovely atmospheric songs, often quite ambiguous and symbolic. Rosenthal’s Reverie is gorgeous with its tinkling and echoing little bells suspended over simple piano ostinatos – “… I let my poor soul soar into the distance …” Then there are the comic songs like Poulenc’s The Tragic Story of little René where the little boy persists in sticking his fingers up his nose to Petibon’s imaginative nasal snorts between verses. In the same vein there's another Poulenc song for Puss in Boots, Ba, be, bi, bo, bu.
I could go on enthusing about every song on this delightful CD but readers will have got my drift by now. I would just mention Fauré’s symbolic shipping song Les Berceaux (Cradles), Rosenthal’s L’Éléphant du Jardin des Plantes in which the poor embarrassed beast has peed in his pants; the amusing accompaniment having a heavy elephantine bass tread. Lastly I would mention Reynaldo Hahn’s lovely 18th century style pastiche, his romantic tribute À Chloris.
A truly dazzling collection.

Ian Lace
Track listing
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Spleen (1888) [2.02]
Les Berceaux (1879) [2.49]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Pholoé (1900) [1.43]
À Chloris (1916) [3.13]
Eric SATIE (1866-1925)
Les Courses (1920) [0.22]
Grande Ritournelle  (1920) [1.48]
La Statue de Bronze  (1916) [2.01]
Le Pique-nique (1920) [0.25]
Allons-y, Chochotte!   (1905)[4.06]
Je te veux  (1901?)[4.18]
Cancan grand-mondain  (1920) [2.04]
Désespoir agréable (1920) [1.11]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Les gars qui vont à la fête (1942) [1.53]
Voyage à Paris  (1940) [1.24]
Hier (1931) [1.52]
La Tragique Histoire du petit René (1934) [1.21]
Ba, be, bi, bo, bu  (1960) [0.40]
Chanson d’Orkenise (1940) [1.36]
Aux Officiers de la Garde Blanche (1937) [3.05]
Hôtel (1940) [1.45]
Manuel ROSENTHAL (1904-2003)
Rêverie  (1933) [2.54]
Pêcheur de lune  (1933) [2.40]
L’Éléphant du Jardin des Plantes  (1934) [1.43]
Fido, Fido (1934) [1.12]
Le Vieux Chameau du zoo   (1934) [2.56]
Léo FERRÉ (1916-1993)
Joli môme    (1960) [3.21]
On s’aimera  (1960) [4.18]
Francine COCKENPOT (1918-2001)
Automne (Colchiques dans les prés) (1943) [3.02]

Other performers
David Levi (piano) Olivier Py (vocals) Christian-Pierre La Marca (cello) Nemanja Radulović (violin) David Venitucci (accordion) François Verly (percussion)