WORKS: Songs (complete)
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano), William Burden (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano), etc
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67133-34
Dear Chabrier! That’s the characteristic response to any mention of this most irreplaceable, irresistible and Schubertian of French song composers. And now, his career can be appreciated and understood as never before, thanks to two generous discs of the complete songs which form one of the most tempting volumes yet in the Hyperion French Song Edition.
Doyennes and debutants of French song conspire to bring new life to works from the earliest ‘L’enfant’ of 1862, to the final, rhapsodic ‘Ode à la musique’ whose soprano solo and four-part female chorus celebrate the Musique adorable! of the discs’ title. Who better than Felicity Lott, Dame, Chevalier and Officier, to recreate that unique fusion of tenderness and sheer joy which Poulenc praised in Chabrier? She and Johnson are on vintage form for a performance of the overshadowed and suppressed ‘L’invitation au voyage’, with its exotic bassoon obbligato; and for an equally rare, and tongue-twisting, vocal arrangement of España.
Stephen Varcoe is entrusted with a ‘Lied’ of which Poulenc said he knew of no song ‘so impertinent’. The warm, baritonal tenor of William Burden acquits itself admirably in Chabrier’s darkest song, a setting of Victor Hugo’s ‘Sommation irrespectueuse’. And Geraldine McGreevy and Toby Spence offer a bonus of pure bliss in their duet between an Opéra usherette and a sales assistant from Le Bon Marché.
Unfailingly affectionate and stylish performances of the two collections Les plus jolies chansons du pays de France and Chabrier’s animal songs dominate the second disc of this real treasure of a treasury. Hilary Finch