Régine Crespin (soprano); L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet (1963 & 1967) Decca 475 7712
Escapism is what Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Berlioz’s Nuits d’été and have in common. Régine Crespin knew that, which is why her performance of these two song cycles practically seems to exist out of time and space.
Does the nitty-gritty of the text suffer, as some Crespin heretics have asserted? Not when the French soprano is so gloriously idiomatic in the shape of the phrasing, the sensual ebb and flow of the verses – whether Tristan Klingsor’s perfumed poems for Ravel, or Théophile Gautier’s more allusive text for Berlioz – and able to float a Wagner-sized voice down to a seductive whisper or up to a gloriously full-throated cry of ecstasy, sounding utterly in the moment all the while.
The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, under Ernest Ansermet, take things slowly and headily, finding plenty of detail along the way, particularly in the Ravel.