Debussy • Bizet • Messiaen • Fauré • Poulenc
Sylvia McNair has a sensual, lyric soprano voice which she has deployed to great effect on the stage, recital platform and in many recordings, but this disc – although an interesting programme – does not deliver the expected promise of an enjoyable recital. McNair and the recording team decided on a very close and intimate miking for the voice, but it simply doesn’t work in the majority of these songs because she often reduces her sound quality and under-powers her usually rock-solid breath control. This results in some distracting scooping and breathiness and not the intense and velvety caressing of the French music and language which was surely the intention. The close miking only works effectively for the Messiaen Trois mélodies, particularly ‘Pourquoi’. McNair’s French is excellent but she does not always seem convincingly ‘inside’ every text. There are moments, however, when her voice, with its distinctive timbre, soars. Fauré’s ‘Notre amour’ and Poulenc’s ‘C’est ainsi que tu es’ are delectable. Bizet’s ‘La coccinelle’ is spirited and in his ‘Pastel’ McNair reveals her ability to spin exquisitely shaped, long melodic lines. Sadly, these are very fleeting moments. The one consistently fine, often luminous contribution, is from Roger Vignoles on the piano.