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René de BOISDEFFRE (1838-1906)
Songs 1
Six Mélodies Op 30 [18.13]
Les Echos des bois Op 8 [9.53]
Cinq Mélodies Op 39 [12.58]
Larmes humaines [3.17]
L’Aube Op 79 [4.29]
Six Mélodies Op 53 [16.50]
Dominika Paczkowska-Gajdzis (mezzo-soprano), Jakub Tchorzewski (piano)
rec. 2019, State School of Music, Warsaw, Poland

René de Boisdeffre is best known for his chamber music, but Acte Préalable’s latest recording shows the nineteenth-century French composer’s mastery of song. This should come as no surprise to those who have sampled the label’s previously released recordings of his chamber and choral music and are aware of his ability to spin simple, but surprisingly beautiful and beguiling, melodies. This recording reveals that at his best, he could fashion a song to rival those of his greatest contemporaries, including Fauré.

Boisdeffre’s taste in poetry was as refined as the music which they inspired him to write. He tended to set the poems of living poets, such as Paul Collin, Édouard Guinand, Sully Prudhomme and André Theuriet, who were among the finest fin-de-siècle French poets; Sully Prudhomme won the first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901. Their words were also set to music by Boisdeffre’s better known contemporaries including Debussy and Tchaikovsky.

This recording is only a sampling of Boisdeffre’s over 100 songs, but this choice selection is representative of his efforts over the length of his career: Les échos des bois Op 8 dates from 1858, when he was in his early thirties, while Larmes humaines was published in 1898, eight years before his death. It, like a number of his songs, wasn’t given an opus number. All are delightful musical diversions.

There is no disputing that the earliest of the songs are youthful efforts, but even then Boisdeffre displayed the artistry that reached its zenith later in his life. L’adieu aux bois, one of two songs that make up Les Echos des bois, demonstrates his ability to create a sense of longing and mystery with the simplest of vocal lines and accompaniments. Those same talents are displayed in more depth in the bittersweet Les Berceaux and the joyous Lied, which date from when Boisdeffre was a mature artist in his mid-fifties.

Mezzo-soprano Dominika Paczkowska-Gajdzis has performed in opera houses in Poland, Switzerland and France and made guest appearances at major European music festivals. Since 2014, she has performed with the Opéra national de Paris. Pianist Jakub Tchorzewski makes his home in Italy and has performed in the Americas, Europe and Japan. A prolific recording artist, Tchorzewski is affiliated with La Fenice and the Benedetto Marcello’ Conservatory of Music in Venice.

An enticing air of simplicity and delicacy mark their performances of these songs. Paczkowska-Gajdzis’s voice is at is loveliest in the creamy middle of her range, although on the few occasions where she sings in her lower register, such as in Mystere, her low notes are strikingly beautiful. Throughout, she speaks, as much as sings, the words, without ever sacrificing the musical line.

Tchorzewski makes the piano sparkle in songs such as La source and La Fleur et le papillon. He is the most expressive of pianists and the finest of collaborative artists. No matter what the mood, it is his playing that gives their performances of these songs their emotional grounding.

Paczkowska-Gajdzis and Tchorzewski have recorded almost all of Boisdeffre’s extant songs. The second album of three is completed and will be released shortly, but the pandemic halted work on the third and final album. For any lover of song, time spent listening to these two fine artists perform these hitherto unknown songs, is time well spent indulging in such beautiful melodies and delicately rendered sensibilities by both composer and these exceptional artists.

Rick Perdian

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