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Guy SACRÉ (b.1948)
Mélodies - Volume 2
Florence Katz (mezzo); Jean-François Gardeil (baritone); Billy Eidi (piano)
rec. Vincennes, Coeur de la Ville, Oct 2014, Feb 2015. DDD
TIMPANI 1C1233 [59.16]

Timpani have transformed the representation of lesser-known French composers on disc. Unusually for this label it here turns its gaze towards a living composer, Guy Sacré. This is not an innovation: since the year 2000 there have been three Sacré Timpani discs. There are two of the piano music but as yet only Volume 1 from 2002 has featured on these pages. The first volume of the Sacré Mélodies was surveyed here in 2000. The song groups are presented here in the order in which they were written. They date from between 1979 and 1990. The individual songs are quite short.

The music is haunting and at times haunted. This composer is at peace among the shades of the greats including Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, Duparc and Poulenc. There are some chiming dissonances but Sacré's horizon undulates and hums with the contributory voices of his grand predecessors. Even his choice of poets speaks of the grandest of traditions with the familiar names of Henri de Régnier, Max Jacob, Rilke, Cocteau and Claudel and jostling with those of Jean Tardieu, Jules Romains and Jean Pellerin. It occurs to me that if anyone could set Alain-Fournier's novel Le Grand Meaulnes as an opera Sacré would be the man. There's a phantasmal feeling to his writing that would suit that oneiric tale. Not that Le Grand Meaulnes exactly presents itself as a natural choice for music although the Dutch composer Rudolf Escher wrote a bejewelled tone poem: Hymne du Grand Meaulnes (1951).

The Huit Petits Poèmes de Max Jacob comprise a sequence framed by Sur la Seine and Le mystère. Each has an alluring treadle and hurdy-gurdy style accompaniment. The songs are sweet in the manner of Poulenc. The hesitant and chastened sound of Gardeil's voice and the use of the words 'tic tac' in Si tu mets ton oreille sticks in the memory. It is a natural step from that song to the distorting glass held up to what feels like a child's song in Dans les maisons with its black violence. Gardeil again impresses by digging deep to articulate a skeletal sound over a twinkling Finzian night sky in the first of the Two Poems by Tardieu. The two Romaine songs provide a showcase for Gardeil's superb baritonal lustre and we are confronted in the second song with a violent sneering scena.

Katz who has fewer songs to sing than Gardeil makes good use of her time in the two Rilke songs: a glittering sleigh-ride in one and in the other a door held open to a typically ecstatic daze. Back to Gardeil for Three Poems of Supervielle, the first delightfully full-hearted in a French echo of Michael Head's country ballads, the second subtly coloured in ochre and carmine and the last providing a meeting place for melancholia and delight. The Cocteau songs encompass dreamy supplication, snow-draped contemplation and a cool ecstasy. Katz returns for the Claudel songs which are often engaging but ice-cold. That said, the final song, Approche ton oreille, is rich in the savour of sophisticated music-theatre. In the Trois Épigrammes d'Henri de Régnier Gardeil revels in the chilly dreams of Que ma flûte, the dreamy half-shambling pilgrimage of Voici des roses and in N'enfermez pas describes a lovely arc of a melody over an urgently pleasing bell-chime piano. The two affectionate Pellerin songs inhabit a world of tundra cold.

Katz returns for the final L'Album de Poil de Carotte. Les présentations with its slightly acrid harmony is very approachable. Its ideas are presented with Petrushka-like contours. Madame Lepic throws in some tasty dissonances before the urgent chase of Parrain. We are back to what is a gift for Sacré: the sense of musing in icy realms in Ernestine et Félix. The dreamy Le cheval de bois contrasts with the staccato of Maman and a cyclic echo of the peg-leg piano accompaniment of the first song. The words are spat out in glassy slivers in the song Monsieur Lepic.

The booklet essay is in French with an English translation. It tells us about each song. There's nothing about Sacré except what you glean from reading between the lines and listening to the music. All the words of the songs are given in the sung French but not in English translation.

Sacré stands in the long line of masterly French song composers. The late Peter Grahame Woolf acclaimed Sacré as "to my ears and mind a major discovery". These songs are projected with loving dedication and concentration by the same pianist who appears on all four Sacré discs. The similarly gifted singers are also the same as on the disc dating from 2000. Their voices carry the music without blemish despite the passage of sixteen years since that first collection.

Rob Barnett

Full list of songs
Huit Petits Poèmes de Max Jacob (1979)
1 Sur la Seine [0:34]
2 Tu te trompes, mon bon ange [0:53]
3 En descendant la rue de Rennes [1:06]
4 Quand on donne aux magiciens [0:58]
5 Si tu mets ton oreille [1:07]
6 Dans les maisons [0:48]
7 Au pied du lit [1:27]
8 Le mystère [1:22]

Deux Poèmes de Jean Tardieu (1979)
9 Je n'attends pas un dieu plus pur [1:30]
10 Quand la nuit de mon cœur [1:14]

Deux Poèmes de Jules Romains (1978-80)
11 Voici qu'un jour tranquille [1:20]
12 Je me sens pauvre aujourd'hui [2:54]

Deux Poèmes français de Rilke (1980)
13 En hiver, la mort [1:25]
14 À la bougie éteinte [1:30]

Trois Poèmes de Supervielle (1979-81)
15 L'âge [1:16]
16 Prairie (1:19]
17 Matinale [3:19]

Clair-Obscur (Jean Cocteau) (1980-82)
18 Des sentinelles sous les armes [1:20]
19 Tu sembles parti mais tu restes [1:30]
20 D'un fauteuil la main dolente [1:13]
21 Que ne suis-je un de cette Égypte [2:10]

Quatre Derniers Éventails (Paul Claudel) (1988)
22 Tu m'appelles la Rose [1:26]
23 Éventail [0:52]
24 Il a plu [1:00]
25 Approche ton oreille [1:21]

Trois Épigrammes d'Henri de Régnier (1989)
26 Que ma flûte [1:56]
27 Voici des roses [1:37]
28 N'enfermez pas [1:26]

Deux Poèmes de Jean Pellerin (1990)
29 Ce souffle qui chante [1:54]
30 Quand mon fil se cassera [1:37]

L'Album de Poil de Carotte (Jules Renard) (1986-90)
31 Poil de Carotte [1:19]
32 Les présentations [1:02]
33 Madame Lepic [0:59]
34 Parrain [0:57]
35 Ernestine et Félix [1:54]
36 Les préférences [1:39]
37 Monsieur Lepic [1:33]
38 Le cheval de bois [1:20]
39 Maman [3:06]



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