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LABELS: Timpani
WORKS: Mélodies
PERFORMER: Lionel Peintre (baritone), Alain Jacquon (piano), Étienne Plasman (flute)
CATALOGUE NO: 1C 1058 (distr. Discovery)
André Caplet is probably best-remembered for his orchestrations of Debussy, but vocal music dominated his small output, and his experience as an opera conductor meant that he wrote well for the voice. The problem is that so much of it is pleasant but unmemorable. Take the cycle Le vieux coffret: its harmonies make all those attractive French sounds, but there isn’t any sense of the music going anywhere. It’s all rather like continuous recitative, and I longed for an aria. This technique works better in ‘Viens! une flûte invisible’, with its sinuous flute obbligato, and the grim ‘La croix douloureuse’ and ‘Détresse’, products of the First World War, where there’s more depth of feeling to carry the music forward, quietly raging against the dying of the light. Peintre’s voice is pleasant, if monochrome, but tends to coarsen under pressure, and he’s too po-faced for the wit in the Trois fables de La Fontaine: his half-hearted attempts at a lamb’s bleatings wouldn’t fool the most distracted ewe. Most successful as songs and performances are the Cinq ballades françaises, where even the adulatory booklet notes acknowledge that ‘rhythm lasts long enough to be felt as rhythm’, and Peintre finds a wider palette of vocal colour. Martin Cotton