Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne (excerpts); Chants des Pays Basques

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COMPOSERS: Canteloube
LABELS: Auvidis Valois
WORKS: Chants d’Auvergne (excerpts); Chants des Pays Basques
PERFORMER: María Bayo (soprano) Tenerife SO/Víctor Pablo Perez
CATALOGUE NO: V 4811
Canteloube’s settings of folksongs from the Auvergne region have become a happy hunting-ground for sopranos over the years, though recently they have tended to go for a ‘soft-focus and hairspray’ approach centring on beauty of tone – not to be despised, though rarely enough for a rounded interpretation. Of these, the best is probably Kiri Te Kanawa. Pearl recently released a selection by the dedicatee of the initial volumes, Madeleine Grey, whose stance is rougher and more earthy, as befits many of the texts. Victoria de los Angeles’s classic account strikes an apt balance between the two approaches.

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Spanish soprano María Bayo also finds ways of suggesting meaning, and enters into the spirit of these varied songs, which deal as often with loneliness, rejection and lost love as the more enviable simplicities of pastoral existence. There’s a distinctive and not unattractive flutter to her tone, though it’s not essentially a voice capable of much variety.

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She also sings an orchestral version (not Canteloube’s) of his collection of Basque songs, which prove more ordinary fare than the Auvergnat product. But what their orchestration does make clear is the finesse and selectivity Canteloube employed in his own sophisticated reworkings of unsophisticated material. George Hall