Green - Melodies Françaises sur des poèms de Verlaine
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor)
Jérôme Ducros (piano)
Ebène Quartet
Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto - Massenet Rêvons only)
rec. June and October 2014, Salle Colonne, Paris
Texts and translations included
ERATO 2564 616695 [57:18 + 54:34]

Verlaine’s poetry has stimulated a large number of settings from a variety of French-speaking composers. Counter-tenor Phillipe Jaroussky has assembled a two-disc set that presents some of the very best of them, and he presents them non-chronologically in a sequence that sometimes – and profitably - plays up juxtaposition between what some people call ‘art’ songs and the more popular settings of Léo Ferré, Georges Brassens, and Charles Trenet.

The majority of settings are for voice and piano, which is played with distinction by Jérôme Ducros, but twelve of the 43 songs also feature the Ebène Quartet. Nathalie Stutzmann pops up for the Massenet duet, though it’s not especially distinctive.

Certain poems proved irresistible to composers and there are therefore multiple settings of such favourites as Green, the poem that gives its name to the collection – Fauré, Caplet, Debussy – as well as Colloque sentimental which is set by Ferré, Canteloube and Debussy. There are numerous other examples of contrastive settings that reveal subtly different approaches to harmony as well as to textual stresses. One of the pleasures of this sumptuously produced twofer is to gad about listening to the same piece in settings by composers as disparate as Poldowski and Brassens. Both settings of Colombine impress, incidentally, the Brassens in particular.

The quartet adds rich string gauze on their appearances, though they’re not required for the unexpectedly beautiful setting by Józef Szulc of Clair de lune.
Programmatic sequencing ensures that Debussy is often represented by several settings in a row – though single ones are dotted elsewhere. Fauré’s settings are not sequenced in this way, being interspersed throughout the collection. Chabrier’s Air de Fisch-Ton-Kan (or Qui je suis) is, in the context of the collection as a whole, which veers to the lightly impressionist or pianistically rippling in places, unusually robust and full of joie de vivre. Perhaps it is these settings that emerge with most immediacy. Because of their liveliness things like Poldowski’s Colombine – fast and witty – and Canteloube’s expressive Colloque sentimental linger long in the mind.

They wouldn’t linger quite so long if the singer lacked grace, charm, and wit. Jaroussky, fortunately, possesses all these qualities and more besides. Given his voice type he has to work harder than most to invest these songs with overt expression, but he makes a fine case for counter-tenors colonising this repertoire when it is done as well as it is here. The production, with its finely judged recording, is further enhanced by the book-style presentation, with essays, full texts, and translations into English and German, and excellently reproduced photographs. Its width is precisely that of two jewel cases, should you anticipate weeding some of your collection.

Jonathan Woolf


CD 1
Léo FERRÉ (1916-1993)
Colloque sentimental [3:27]
Écoutez la chanson bien douche [2:37]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Mandoline [1:41]
C’est l’extase [2:48]
Green [1:41]
En sourdine [2:54]
Prison [2:17]
Spleen [2:06]
Déodat de SÉVERAC (1872-1921)
Prison [2:55]
Józef Zygmunt SZULC (1875-1956)
Clair de lune [3:14]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
En sourdine [3:00]
Fantouches [1:17]
Clair de lune [3:10]
Mandoline [1:29]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Écoutez la chanson bien douche [2:51]
Apaisement [2:18]
Charles BORDES (1863-1909)
Ô triste, triste était mon âme [1:43]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Le vent dans la plaine [1:21]
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Air de Fisch-Ton-Kan [2:34]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
En sourdine [3:13]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Un grand sommeil noir [1:59]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Rêvons, c’est l’heure [3:44]
Edgar VARÈSE (1883-1965)
Un grand sommeil noir [2:56]

CD 2
Gabriel FAURÉ
Clair de lune [2:37]
La lune blanche luit dans les bois [2:50]
Reynaldo HAHN
Chanson d’automne [2:10]
André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Green [3:10]
Il pleure dans mon coeur [2:30]
Green [2:16]
Les Ingénus [2:20]
Faune [2:09]
Colloque sentimental [3:43]
POLDOWSKI (1879-1932)
L’Heure exquise [2:35]
Colombine [1:43]
Mandoline [1:27]
Charles TRENET (1913-2001)
Verlaine (Chanson d’automne) [2:50]
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Il pleure dans mon coeur [2:59]
Reynaldo HAHN
D’une prison [3:02]
Air de Poussah (J’engraisse) [2:59]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Il pleure dans mon coeur [3:06]
Charles BORDES
Promenade sentimentale [3:30]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879-1957)
Colloque sentimental [4:45]
Georges BRASSENS (1921-1981)
Colombine [1:48]


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