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Chansons Perpétuelles
Guillaume LEKEU (1870-1894)
Trois poèmes (1892)
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
from Italienisches liederbuch (1890-96)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Cinq mélodies de Venise Op. 58 (1891)
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Chest Romansov, Op. 4 (1890-91)
from Dvenadtsat Romansov Op. 14 (1896): No. 2, Ostrovok [2:03]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
from Cinq melodies (1894), Op. 5
from Sept rondels, Op. 8 (1890-99)
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Chanson perpétuelle, Op. posthume 37 (1898) [7:01]
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto); Roger Vignoles (piano); Psophos Quartet
rec. 2014, Akademiezaal Saint-Trond, Belgium
Texts and translations included
NAÏVE V5355 [63:03]

The question of melancholy is one addressed early on in the interrogative booklet notes. The programme took shape during preparations for a concert tour that Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Roger Vignoles will give during 2015 and though elements of it do very much embody melancholia, that doesn’t apply to everything. Which is just as well.

One would expect a French-language core to the recital, as it’s one of her central reportorial strengths. Lemieux studied in Montreal and her sensitivity to Lekeu’s sensibility reminds me of another French-Canadian who studied in the same city, namely Bruno Laplante, who recorded a fine Calliope LP of his music with pianist Janine Lachance. Both, in their different ways, are pliant and expressively successful singers of the Trois poèmes and both bring a delightfully light quality to the central Ronde where it’s apparent that for all the flexibility of her voice – quite unusual to find a contralto singing this repertoire - Lemieux’s voice can darken appropriately. The Nocturne employs the Psophos quartet as well as Vignoles and the results are predictably richly textured.

Fauré’s Cinq mélodies de Venise are almost as fine, though I would have preferred her to have given us more from Koechlin. She sings two of the five Mélodies and three of the seven Rondels, Op.8 but they offer such interesting insights that it would have been a pleasure to have had both sets complete. Si tu le veux, from the Cinq Mélodies shows some Fauréan hues but the Minuet is more churchlike with a tolling left hand for the piano and deft, troubled treble – the song is a paean to music itself. La pêche from Rondels takes her down to her chest voice, and it’s the lowest she descends in the recital though it’s not out of scale. She manages to get laughter into her voice for the witty La Lune with its baroque and folk-like hints. Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle, for piano and quartet, finds a touch of hardness in the voice though the way she moves from poetic intimacy to quasi-operatic declamation shows how well-rounded a musician she is.

She laces these chansons with four songs from Wolf’s Italienisches liederbuch of which Auch kleine Dinge is possibly the best interpreted; her dramatic intensity and Vignoles’ fine postlude make for a good performance. She also favours Rachmaninoff, singing four from the six Romances, Op.4. Her vocal timbre is wider here, her vibrato faster and deeper; the vocalise elements and the rolled chords of Ne poj, krasavica, pri mne end this brief selection on a positive note.

The recording is very well balanced.

Given this is her choice of repertoire it would perhaps be churlish to complain about the sets that are not wholly sung. Sometimes singers don’t have an equal affinity for a set, or it’s necessary to contrast moods more for a recital of this sort. However I can’t stop wondering about the Koechlin, in particular.

Jonathan Woolf
 
Track list

Lekeu

No. 1, Sur une tombe [3:53]
No. 2, Ronde [3:45]
No. 3, Nocturne [4:40]
Wolf
No.1, Auch kleine Dinge [2:21]
No. 10, Du denkst mit einem Fädchen [1:06]
No. 20, Mein Liebster singt [1:31]
No. 29, Wohl kenn’ ich Euren Stand [1:55]
Fauré
No. 1, Mandoline [1:43]
No. 2, En sourdine [3:15]
No. 3, Green [1:49]
No. 4, À Clymène [2:56]
No. 5, C’est l’extase [3:22]
Rachmaninov
Chest: No. 1, O, net, moljou ne ukhodi! [1:39]
No. 2, Utro [2:10]
No. 3, V moltchan’ ji nochi tajnoj [2:54]
No. 4, Ne poj, krasavica, pri mne [4:21]
Dvenadtsat: No. 2, Ostrovok [2:03]
Koechlin
Melodies: No. 5, Si tu le veux [1:40]
No. 2, Menuet [3:40]
Rondels: No. 1, La pêche [1:41]
No. 2, L’hiver [2:11]
No. 4, La lune [1:15]