Berlioz, Ravel, Debussy & Poulenc

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COMPOSERS: Berlioz,Debussy & Poulenc,Ravel
LABELS: Decca Legends
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Régine Crespin
WORKS: Les nuits d’été; Shéhérazade
PERFORMER: Régine Crespin (soprano), John Wustman (piano); Suisse Romand Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet
CATALOGUE NO: 460 973-2 ADD Reissue (1963, 1967)
‘Asie, Asie, Asie’, declaims the singer at the beginning of Ravel’s ‘Scheherezade’, and it is impossible to imagine that litany of longing for the exoticism of the orient more seductively expressed than by Régine Crespin’s velvet tones. I must confess that I have loved this recording ever since it first appeared, in the early Sixties. Only the opening ‘Villanelle’ of Berlioz’s ‘Nuits d’été’ finds Crespin a little too sophisticated (and Ernest Ansermet rather off his guard): Janet Baker and Barbirolli (EMI) convey its rustic charm more successfully. Jessye Norman is again a touch heavy in that first song, but her version of the Berlioz and Ravel is supremely well sung, and it comes with the advantage of superior orchestral playing from the LSO. But for sheer voluptuousness nothing compares with Crespin, and as a bonus she offers further erotic pleasure in Debussy’s ‘Chansons de Bilitis’, and outrageous humour in Poulenc. Misha Donat