French composer Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944) was
a protégé of Bizet, and student of Benjamin Godard; and her talent
was recognised by Ambroise Thomas, Massenet, Gounod, Saint Saëns and
Chabrier. She composed works for orchestra, a comic opera and a ballet
but she is remembered for her sparkling songs full of charm and joie
de vivre. They are redolent of the spirit of Paris, City of Lights,
as celebrated in so many films. Given their appeal, it is extraordinary
that they have been so overlooked by the recording companies.
This delightful compilation includes 25 of her songs,
all little gems. I could wax enthusiastic about all of them in fact I ticked
them all for comment as I listened through for the first time. Anne Sofie von
Otter and Bengt Forsberg show great affection for them, their performances are
very committed; a sense of fun and enjoyment is clearly communicated. Anne
Sofie colours her voice according to their mood and sings most expressively
enjoying every nuance and elegant lilt. Just to mention a few: 'L'amourcaptif' (Love Held Captive) is deliciously cheeky and capricious;
'Ma premiere lettre' (My First Letter) is an affecting remembrance of a first
love letter; 'Nice-la-belle' (Nice the Beautiful) is an engaging high-spirited
visit to sunny Nice full of flowers and gorgeous girls; 'Te souviens-tu?' (Do
you remember?), to words by Benjamin Godard, is one of Chaminade's most beguiling
melodies, and Ecrin (Jewel-case) teases naughtily both in the vocal and instrumental
lines. The most substantial song is reserved until last the 5+ minute 'L'Été'
(Summer) a beautifully evocative setting of words by Edouard Guinard that gives
Von Otter the opportunity to show off her coloratura talents in a dazzling display
of sheer joyeuse.
Additionally, there are six tracks of non-vocal music:
three pieces for violin and piano (with Nils-Erik Sparf joining Forsberg) and
another three numbers for two pianos with Peter Jablonski on second piano.
Of the three pieces for violin and piano the opening Sérénade espagnole
is performed in Fritz Kreisler's engaging arrangement. The following Rondeau
is pleasant if a little formal while the Capriccio skits along down well-trodden
salon music paths. Of the music for two pianos, Valse carnavalesque
is a clever, jolly tour de force combining waltz figures with humorous
material that suggests puppets on strings – there is an enchanting poignancy
here too. Chaminade, herself, created something of a sensation when, in 1910,
she played this piece accompanying herself playing second piano as a pre-recorded
piano-roll pianola recording. Pas des cymbales is a sparkling
piece recalling but without suggesting pastiche, Chabrier's Espana.
Danse païnne is a little caprice looking back towards 19th
A tonic for the winter months. Twenty-five delightful
songs sung with great élan and affection by Anne Sofie von Otter splendidly
supported by Bengt Forsberg and six sparkling bonus pieces for violin and piano,
and two pianos.