Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Les amoureuses sont des folles
Sally Silver (soprano); Richard Bonynge (piano)
Christine Tocci (mezzo); Nico Darmanin (tenor); Gabriella Swallow (cello)
rec. Blackburn Hall, National Opera Studio, London, 2014
SOMM SOMMCD0151 [58.53]
This collection is a pure delight. It is such a pity that these lovely songs are not better known. Here is proof, if ever there was need for such, of Massenet’s masterly lyrical invention for the female voice and of his richly descriptive writing for the piano.

Massenet composed more than two hundred songs. Little is mentioned on the internet about them. Apparently his early song collections were particularly popular and helped establish his reputation. Grove comments that although pleasing and impeccable in craftsmanship, they are not as inventive as those of Bizet and less distinctive than those of Duparc and Fauré. Robert Matthew-Walker in his notes for this collection disagrees and makes a robust case in their favour, noting the strengths of a number of them. It is a pity that space could not have been found for a detailed description of every song, as Hyperion so often do for their song recordings.

The songs often follow Massenet’s operatic style in atmosphere, sentiment and colour. Here is a representative collection ranging from the earliest Adieu (circa 1866) to Menteuse chérie, lorsque tu m’as dit composed shortly before Massenet died.

This album has the proven team of Sally Silver, at home both on the operatic stage and in the recital room, and Richard Bonynge, husband of the late Joan Sutherland. He is famed as an operatic conductor and scholar, and with exceptional piano skills. Together they bring inspired, sympathetic, thoughtfully nuanced readings to these songs.

I will mention just a few. The first one, Les amoureueses sont des folles (Women who love are fools). There is a clear sense of the operatic here in this enigmatic song that reflects a whirlpool of mixed emotions. The swirling piano accompaniment suggests such turbulence, from cruelty to the lover to surrender and enslavement.

La Chanson du Ruisseau (Song of the Stream) again brings the operatic to mind. The blending and intertwining of the soprano and mezzo (Christine Tocci) voices is beautifully realised and the piano part depicts the rippling waters perfectly.

Melodramatic comedy informs the love-struck dialogue between the maiden and her shepherd admirer in Dialogue Nocturne (Nocturnal Conversation) featuring tenor Nico Darmanin. The piano accompaniment underlines the comedy.

Je t’aime introduces the cello to add depth to this little song that celebrates the joys of mutual love.

A strong choice for all lovers of Massenet’s richly sentimental lyricism.

Ian Lace

1. Les amoureuses sont des folles [2.20]
2. Si vous vouliez bien me le dire [1.38]
3. À Mignonne [1.53]
4. Beux yeux que j'aime [2.22]
5. La chanson du ruisseau (with C. Tocci) [2.39]
6. Dialogue nocturne (with N. Darmanin) [2.51]
7. Adieu! [2.08]
8. Je t'aime! (with G. Swallow) [2.11]
5. Oiseau des bois (with C. Tocci) [2.13]
10. Sainte Thérèse prie [3.25]
11. Horace et Lydie (with N. Darmanin) [4.06]
12. Coupe d'ivresse [2.17]
13. Tout passe! [1.42]
14. On dit! [3.07]
15. O ruisseau (with C. Tocci, N. Darmanin) [1.54]
16. Départ [2.25]
17. Oh! ne finis jamais (with C. Tocci) [2.59]
18. Le temps et l'amour (C. Tocci, N. Darmanin only) [3.44]
19. Dans le sentier, parmi les roses [1.45]
20. Amoureuse [2.42]
21. Les yeux clos (with G. Swallow) [1.59]
22. Les extases [2.25]
23. Éternité [2.13]
24. Menteuse chérie [2.18]

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