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Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano)
Fazil Say (piano)
Bernhard Krabatsch (flute, tr. 5)
rec. Großer Saal, Mozarteum, Salzburg, 2017
Full texts and English translations provided
ERATO 9029576897 [69.23]

Until her recent Erato album Oh, Boy!, an impressive collection of sixteen ‘trouser’ role opera arias, Marianne Crebassa was an unknown name to me. For her new album ‘Secrets’ the talented mezzo soprano has turned her attention to a recital collection of mélodies, French art songs, from renowned composers Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Duparc, plus a single work a wordless vocalise by pianist Fazil Say.

Despite her relatively young age Béziers-born Crebassa has already sung in an impressive number of international opera houses including Madame Butterfly at Opéra de Paris, Le nozze di Figaro at both Wiener Staatsoper and Berlin Staatsoper, Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera Chicago also La clemenza di Tito at Salzburg Festival. Currently Crebassa is singing Irene in Handel’s Tamerlano alongside Plácido Domingo as Bajazet a work being staged for the first time at La Scala Milan. Crebassa has received numerous accolades including, “one of the most important voices of our time” – praise indeed from the distinguished conductor Marc Minkowski.

With the title ‘Secrets’ Crebassa reveals how the music she has chosen here takes her to a hidden world of secret thoughts and fantasies stating, “I make the most of those few precious moments when time stands still, when my emotions can express themselves freely, unjudged by anyone.” The album primarily focusses on Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis and Ravel’s Shéhérazade, both works I consider to be masterworks of the genre.

With Trois Chansons de Bilitis (Three Songs of Bilitis) Debussy uses restrained erotic texts by Pierre Louÿs which he maintained were translations of ancient Greek literature written by a poetess Bilitis; fundamentally lesbian poetry. These are delightful renditions by Crebassa with an ideal degree of expressive restraint balanced with immaculate phrasing and diction. Ravel’s song-cycle Shéhérazade reveals the composer’s fascination with Eastern culture setting three poems by Tristan Klingsor the pseudonym of his friend Léon Leclère. Shéhérazade is a large collection of Arabic poems inspired by the Middle-Eastern folktales known collectively as the Arabian Nights (or One Thousand and One Nights). In these three settings Crebassa with substantial intensity seductively creates a perfumed and atmospheric quality which feels ideal especially in the extended opening piece Asie. Enchanting also is La Flûte enchantée enhanced by quite lovely flute playing from Bernhard Krabatsch. Crebassa’s performance matches a recent 2016 Bamberg account of Shéhérazade sung so engagingly by soprano Christiane Karg on Berlin Classics. Of the orchestral versions it would be remiss not to mention the unparalleled 1963 Geneva account from Régine Crespin with Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet on Decca and Magdalena Kožená is in stunning form with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle recorded live in 2012 at Philharmonie, Berlin on Deutsche Grammophon.

It is always pleasing to have Duparc mélodies included on recital releases and a highlight here is Au pays où se fait la guerre a setting by Théophile Gautier with Crebassa providing ample melancholy together with the aching longing of waiting for a loved one in wartime. In a move away from secrets and fantasies the final work on the album the ballad Gezi Park 3 is Turkish born Fazil Say’s homage to the 2013 Gezi Park civil protests in Istanbul. Originally for mezzo-soprano, piano and string orchestra the work is given here in his arrangement for voice and piano. Essentially a wordless vocalise it’s a restless and rather unsettling piece with Crebassa giving a moving performance which makes quite an impact.

In a sterling performance by Crebassa to my ears the only minor flaw is a detectible nasal quality which creates a slight metallic edge to her voice that comes at the expense of tone colour. Throughout pianist Fazil Say is on compelling form and makes an ideal recital partner for Crebassa. Recorded at Großer Saal, Mozarteum, Salzburg, although I personally prefer a warmer sound, the engineering team provide cool, clear sound that is satisfyingly balanced. The booklet notes are exceptionally impressive containing a note from Crebassa, together with helpful explanations on each of the works and gratifyingly sung texts and English translations are provided.

Marianne Crebassa is in remarkable form with this well-chosen collection of French songs titled ‘Secrets’ which deserves a wide circulation. Next, I hope Crebassa will record a collection of Mozart opera arias,now that would be a treat worth waiting for.

Michael Cookson

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
3 Chansons de Bilitis FL 97, from poems by Pierre Louÿs:
1. La Flûte de Pan [2.26]
2. La Chevelure [3.07]
3. Le Tombeau des naïades [2.54]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Shéhérazade, from poems by Tristan Klingsor:
4. Asie [8.44]
5. La Flûte enchantée (flute: Bernhard Krabatsch) [3.00]
6. L'Indifférent [3.15]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
3 mélodies L.81 from poems by Paul Verlaine:
7. La mer est plus belle que les cathédrales [2.11]
8. Le son du cor s'afflige vers les bois [2.49]
9. L'échelonnement des haies moutonne à l'infini [1.31]
Maurice RAVEL
10. Vocalise en forme de Habanera [2.54]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Mirages from poems by Renée de Brimont:
11. Cygne sur l'eau [3.23]
12. Reflets dans l'eau [4.16]
13. Jardin nocturne [2.46]
14. Danseuse [2.12]
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
4 melodies:
15. Au pays où se fait la guerre from poem by Théophile Gautier [5.05]
16. Lamento (also known as Connaissez-vous la blanche tombe) from poem by Théophile Gautier [3.17]
17. Elegie (also known as Oh ! Ne murmurez pas son nom !) from poem by Thomas Moore translated by Ellie MacSwiney [2.56]
18. Chanson triste (also known as Dans ton cœur dort un clair de lune) from poem by Henri Cazalis, surname Jean Lahor [3.05]
Fazil SAY (b. 1970)
19. Gezi Park 3, Ballade for mezzo-soprano, piano and string orchestra arranged by the composer for voice and piano [9.24]



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