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Chanson d'avril - French Chansons and Mélodies
Songs by Bizet, Duparc, Liszt, Ravel
Nicole Cabell (soprano), Craig Terry (piano)
rec. 2013, Allegro Recordings, Burbank, California
Song texts in French with English translations provided
Track-listing below review
DELOS DE3450 [65:47]

This gratifying Delos release features the Californian soprano Nicole Cabell who won the BBC Singer of the World Competition in Cardiff in 2005. From a UK perspective I especially recall her 2006 Royal Opera House debut at the Barbican as Eudoxie in a concert performance of Halévy’s La Juive. There was also a solo recital at St. John’s, Smith Square, London in 2007 and in 2010 I remember her Royal Opera House concert performance of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles as Hindu priestess Léïla. Much in demand, Cabell has appeared in a number of international theatres and opera houses but a check of her schedule shows that she tends to concentrate on working in the USA.

It comes as no surprise that Cabell has chosen to record a collection of chansons and mélodies as French is a language in which she excels. Together with Bizet, Duparc and Ravel some might raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of Liszt. With the wide choice of home-grown French composers available the choice may at first seem rather curious. Nevertheless the Hungarian-born Liszt had lived for some years in Paris with this mother. According to ‘The Collected Writings of Franz Liszt’ edited and translated by Janita R. Hall-Swadley (‘Introduction’ pg. 17, Scarecrow Press 2012) “His mother tongue was German, which he all but gave up after moving to Paris. Thereafter he began to speak French, his preferred language in speaking and writing throughout the rest of his life.” Using five languages Liszt wrote some eighty songs and the four that Cabell includes here are part of that French contingent.

My main thoughts after playing through this recital disc concern the elevated consistency of performance Nicole Cabell brings to these nineteen songs. Her fluid tone is a sheer delight and she moves easily through her soprano range. Feeling as if they are from a much earlier generation the Liszt’s songs seemed rather out of place in this company. Nevertheless, heard on its own, Liszt’s Oh! Quand je dors is the most charming work.

If I were to select just three songs from this disc they would be the wonderful Duparc mélodies. I relish the love song L’invitation au voyage for its shimmering beauty, the ardent expression given to Chanson triste with its undertow of melancholy and the rich and darkly expressive Au pays où se fait la guerre. There are more attractive timbres around than Cabell is able to produce and occasionally she is given to squeeze her notes. That said, Cabell has the rare ability firmly to engage the listener. It is hard to fault the piano accompaniment of Craig Terry who plays with such sensitivity throughout.

The Delos engineers shine yet again and provide clear sound and an excellent balance between voice and piano. Thanks are due for providing full song texts in French with English translations and a useful short description of each work.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: 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]