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Chanson d’avril - French chansons and melodies
Track listing below review
Nicole Cabell (soprano), Craig Terry (piano)
rec. 2-6 January 2013, Allegro Recordings, Burbank, CA
Song texts with English translations enclosed
DELOS DE3450 [65:47]

It was in 2005 that Nicole Cabell won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition (review) and the same year Decca recorded her first solo disc with opera arias. I reviewed the disc when it was issued in 2007 and found an exceptional voice, voluminous and beautiful, and predicted a luminous career. What she lacked then was stage experience but that changed pretty soon when she started to appear in the most prestigious houses. A couple of complete opera recordings also appeared, among them La bohème on Deutsche Grammophon, the soundtrack for a film that never reached this country as far as I know. My colleagues Ian Lace and Robert Farr and I both reviewed the set very favourably and my comment on Ms Cabell was that a certain lack of warmth and charm that I felt on the recital disc concerning Musetta’s aria was now totally wiped away. Her singing was absolutely superb. That recording was made in 2007. Now she is back seven years later with an all-French programme of chansons and melodies. The voice is still in marvellous shape. The tone is rounded with contralto darkness in the lower range, even from bottom to top and with an almost girlish lightness in the uppermost range. There is a fly in the ointment, as I see it, and that is one of the dangers with such a glorious voice: it easily becomes too overwhelming.

The Bizet group fares rather well. Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe with exoticism typical of the period is a great song. The bolero Ouvre ton coeur as well as the Pastorale are Spanish flavoured, bringing Carmen to mind. The title song, Chanson d’avril, is also gloriously sung but here I miss the more slim-lined reading by Maggie Teyte, a legendary recording with Gerald Moore at the piano. Duparc’s songs are also deeply impressive and L’invitation au voyage, written by a twenty-year-old composer, is beautifully sung, as is Chanson triste. These are two of the finest of his seventeen preserved songs. Au pays où se fait la guerre is a moving poem by Théophile Gauthier about a woman waiting in her castle for her beloved to return from war. Once she thinks she hears him climbing the stairs – but it is only her page.

The four Liszt settings of poems by Victor Hugo are by some commentators regarded as a unified cycle, though there appears to be no evidence that Liszt intended them so. Of the four Oh! Quand je dors is by far the best known and definitely one of the finest gems in the French language song literature. Early on I got to know the song in Heddle Nash’s famous recording. I’m afraid Nicole Cabell has a quite different approach, a little too much of everything ... and that goes more or less for the other three too.

It is a relief that the Ravel songs are exactly as I want them. It seems that Ms Cabell is more attuned to them. Both Shéhérazade and Cinq mélodies populaires grecques are superb. Here she scales down her magnificent voice to the tenderness and restraint required. Even those songs where I felt a kind of over-kill are worth a listen for the glorious sounds she pours out. In Craig Terry she has a masterly accompanist and the fine sound quality is what one expects from Delos.

Göran Forsling
Track listing
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
1. Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe [4:59]
2. Ouvre ton coeur [2:40]
3. Pastorale [3:41]
4. Chanson d’avril [2:57]
Henri DUPARC (1848 – 1933)
5. L’invitation au voyage [4:26]
6. Chanson triste [3:09]
7. Au pays où se fait la guerre [5:20]
Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886)
8. Enfant, si j’étais roi [3:06]
9. Oh! Quand je dors [5:03]
10. S’il es tun charmant gazon [2:07]
11. Comment, disaient-ils [1:57]
Maurice RAVEL (1875 – 1937]
Shéhérazade [17:51]
12. Asie [10:30]
13. La flute enchantée [3:38]
14. L’indifférent [3:43]
Cinq melodies populaires grecques [8:03]
15. Chanson de la mariée [1:31]
16. Là-bas, vers l’église [1:49]
17. Quel gallant m’est comparable [0:57]
18. Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques [2:57]
19. Tout gai! [0:49]