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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Songs for Bass Voice and Piano
Jared Schwartz (bass) Roy Howat (piano)
rec. St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral, Dallas, Texas, 13, 15-16 February 2015
Sung texts with English translations enclosed. TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0268 [59:34]
The young Indiana-born Jared Schwartz seems to be a multi-talented musicians. Besides being a busy bass singer he also plays the piano, violin and horn and is a successful composer. His accompanist Roy Howat is a specialist in French music and studied in Paris with Vlado Perlemuter, who worked with Fauré. The prerequisites for an idiomatic recording of the piano parts for these Fauré songs is thus well catered for.
There is no particular shortage of recordings of Fauré songs but there is still a novelty here, since all the songs bar one are first recordings by a bass. Whether that is a selling-point in itself is another matter. There have been some very good baritones in the past, who recorded substantial helpings of Fauré, the most prominent being Gérard Souzay, who together with the delectable soprano Elly Ameling set down the complete songs, available in a 4-CD set on Brilliant Classics at almost give-away price. It seems not to have been reviewed on MusicWeb International but my colleague John Quinn was lyrical about another 4-CD box with Souzay on Newton Classics where the first CD and part of the second are devoted to Fauré. I bought that set as well and can only endorse JQ’s opinion. I can also recommend a latter-day baritone who seemed to me when I reviewed his Fauré-Poulenc programme on Etcetera in March 2009 the best singer of melodies since Souzay. His name is Thomas Oliemans and the disc was my Recording of the Month.
Jared Schwartz, who is a true bass, is in many ways an expressive singer, and in the middle and upper part of his register he is sensitive and nuanced. Unfortunately the lowest part of the voice is quite coarse, the tone often gritty and under pressure there is an annoying beat as well. This is very obvious in the well-known Après un rêve (tr. 8) that is robbed of its intimacy. It is, like the previous song, sung in Tuscan, which is interesting as an alternative. The Sérénade toscane (tr. 7) is quite charming in his reading. Gautier’s Tristesse (tr. 4) is also successful, as is Hugo’s L’absent (tr. 5) – sung with deep involvement. Time and again I noted with satisfaction well-intended readings but in the course of the hour-long programme I also felt a distressing monotony and the coarseness of tone had a tiring effect. Listening to one or two songs at a time could very well give a more positive response and browsing through my notes I see several nice comments. Nocturne, for instance (tr. 20), is “sensitively sung” and the Verlaine-setting Mandoline (tr. 11) is “charming”. I would suggest that prospective buyers should try to hear some excerpts. What I feel is coarse and gritty may to other listeners be agreeable. Concerning Roy Howat’s accompaniments I find them very attractive. It is also gratifying to have the complete texts with English translations. It seems that many companies nowadays have realized that we need the texts for a deeper appreciation of the songs. I didn’t think of the sound quality while listening, there is not a letter about it in my notes. Consequently it is quite OK.
To sum up: largely well considered readings marred to some extent by coarse delivery.
Göran Forsling Track Listing Three Baudelaire Settings:
1. Hymne [2:04]
2. La rançon [2:07]
3. Chant d’automne [3:34]
4. Tristesse [2:18]
5. L’absent [4:15]
6. Le parfum impérissable, Op. 76, No. 1 [2:16] Two Tuscan Settings:
7. Sérénade toscane (O tu che dormi)** [2:32]
8. Après un rêve (Levati, sol)** [2:38] Two Gautier Settings:
9. Les matelots [1:28]
10. Chanson du pêcheur(Lamento)* Three Verlaine Settings:
11. Mandoline, Op. 58, No. 1 [1:49]
12. En sourdine, Op. 58, No. 2 [3:06]
13. Prison, Op. 68, No. 1 [1:59]
14. Dans la forêt de septembre, Op. 85, No. 1 [3:20]
15. Tristesse d’Olympio [4:16]
16. Aurore, Op. 39, No. 1 [1:56]
17. La fleur qui va sur l’eau, Op. 85, No. 2 [2:02]
18. Fleur jetée [Op. 39, No. 2]
19. Le don silencieux, Op. 92 [1:57]
20. Nocturne, Op. 43, No. 2 [2:08]
21. Les présents, Op. 46, No. 1 [1:41]
22. Au bord de l’eau [1:52]
23. Ici-bas [1:33]
24. Barcarolle [1:51]
25. Le Voyageur, Op. 18, No. 2 [2:02]
First recordings by a bass voice (Except for *)
** First recording in Tuscan