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Soir - Berceuses (mais pas que…)
Eugénie Warnier (soprano)
Marine Thoreau La Salle (piano)
Quatuor Les Heures du Jour
rec. 2016, l’Eglise Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris
MUSO MU027 [60:28]

The concept of a recital on a particular theme is nothing new; indeed, this certainly isn’t the first disc to bring together a collection of lullabies, but it is one of the more interesting such discs. Not only do we get the usual offerings here, the Brahms, the Schubert and the Richard Strauss, but we get the unusual songs as well, beautiful songs by the likes of Xavier Montsalvatge, Reynaldo Hahn and we even get a traditional melody from Japan, the Berceuse japonaise, which is completely different and quite lovely, with the occasional use of the string quartet also being quite effective.

The disc opens with a lovely performance of Fauré’s Soir, the song which gives this disc its title, but for me it is Xavier Montsalvatge’s Cancion de cuna para dormir a un negrito which is the real starting point; I have three other recordings, all part of the complete set of Cinco canciones Negras, both in the original piano version and the composer’s orchestral arrangement. There is no doubting why this has become one of his best known works, with its depiction of a child and its mother; in this, the most tender of the songs, Eugénie Warnier annunciates well the love between parent and child, with the addition of the string quartet adding depth to the emotion, with the single song standing alone well, without the rest of the set.

This is followed by the Brahms and Schubert, before a quite lovely rendition of Gounod’s Nuit Silencieuse in an arrangement that again employs the string quartet. Warnier sings Poulenc’s tender Tu vois le feu du soir very well indeed, giving it at times a feel of the finale of his great opera Dialogues des Carmelites.

This recording gives the listener the chance to compare three quite different settings of Paul Verlaine’s poem ‘La lune blanche’. The first is a beautifully tender version by Reynaldo Hahn, with Warnier once again bringing out the tenderness of the text. The second version by Ernest Chausson is somewhat colder, with its sparse opening piano accompaniment. The final version is by far the best known, but here the changes are rung with the addition of the string quartet tastefully adding a little extra panache to Gabriel Fauré’s popular setting from La bonne chanson.

Manuel de Falla’s setting of the traditional Spanish text in his Nana is wonderful, here Warnier shows that she can colour her voice with ornaments to suit the Spanish style of this short song. This is followed by another wonderful Poulenc setting, with the following song staying in France with Joseph Canteloube and his Brezairola from his third set of Chants d’Auvergne, which is given a slower and more tender performance, for voice, piano and string quartet, than some might be use to, but which is quite lovely.

The setting of Bizet’s Berceuse is beautiful and receives the performance it deserves. This brings us to the first song that is new to me, Bernhard Flies setting of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s Wiegenlied, the earliest song on this recital disc, which is beautifully performed by all involved, including the string quartet.

The sparse unaccompanied opening of Benjamin Britten’s The Nurse’s Song is the only place where the French accent of Eugénie Warnier slightly comes through, but not enough to detract from what is a performance filled with tenderness and a sense of longing. Another song new to me beautifully follows on from the Britten, Benjamin Godard’s Berceuse de Jocelyn, the longest song on the disc; it is at this point that whilst you have had a feeling, you clearly know that this is not just a collection of songs, but a well planned and executed program that displays differing musical styles and emotions.

Ma Poupée chérie has always been one of my favourites amongst the songs of Déodat de Séverac, a composer best known for his piano music; this song is a wonderful blend of a tender piano line and a soprano top line, and is performed beautifully here. This just leaves the Berceuse japonaise, a beautiful traditional melody from Japan which here, although sung in French, still retains its Japanese feel, mainly due to its sympathetic arrangement and piano accompaniment.

This is a lovely disc, one for all lovers of art song, and not just a disc of lullabies. A lot of thought has been put into this disc as can be seen in the booklet notes by both Eugénie Warnier and Yasmina Khadra. The disc, as you have probably come to guess by now, is beautifully performed by all involved and captured in a sympathetic acoustic, although I did find myself wishing for a few more arrangements that used the string quartet. The booklet is beautifully illustrated throughout with original pieces of art by Paul Cox. A disc for all song enthusiasts.

Stuart Sillitoe

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Deux mélodies, Op. 83
1 II. ‘Soir’ [2:28]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002)
Cinco canciones Negras
2 IV. ‘Cancion de cuna para dormir a un negrito’ [2:42]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Fünf Lieder, Op. 49
3 IV. ‘Wiegenlied’. Zart bewegt [1:42]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
4 ‘Wiegenlied’, D. 498, Op. 98 No. 2 [2:48]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Cinq-Mars, CG 10
5 ‘Nuit Silencieuse’ (Cantilène) [4:11]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Miroirs brûlants, FP 98
6 I. ‘Tu vois le feu du soir’ [4:22]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Chansons grises
7 V. ‘L'heure exquise’ [2:13]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Siete canciones populares españolas
8 V. ‘Nana’ [1:49]
La courte paille, FP 178
9 I. ‘Le Sommeil’ [2:14]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879-1957)
Chants d'Auvergne III
10 IV. ‘Brezairola’ [3:19]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Quatre mélodies, Op. 13
11 I. ‘Apaisement’ [2:21]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Vingt mélodies, Op. 21
12 XI. ‘Berceuse (sur un vieil air)’ [4:56]
Bernhard FLIES (c. 1770)
13 Wiegenlied, K. 350 [2:18]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Charm of Lullabies, Op. 41
14 V. ‘The Nurse’s Song’ [4:28]
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Jocelyn, Op. 100
15 ‘Berceuse de Jocelyn’ [5:26]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Fünf Lieder, Op. 41
16 I. ‘Wiegenlied’ [4:29]
Déodat de SÉVERAC (1872-1921)
17 ‘Ma Poupée chérie’ [3:15]
18 Berceuse japonaise (chant populaire de la région du Chûgoku) [2:37]
Gabriel FAURÉ
La bonne chanson, Op. 61
19 III. ‘La Lune blanche’ [2:22]

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