COMPOSERS: Bizet; Chausson; Debussy; Duparc; Poulenc; Faure; Hahn; Massenet; Ravel
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Aprs un Rve
PERFORMER: Mischa Maisky (cello), Daria Hovora (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 457 657-2
Berlioz had a point in his Grand traité d’instrumentation when he described cellos as ‘vocal instruments’, with a gift for expressing ‘delicate and yearning melodies’. There’s yearning aplenty on this disc of mid-19th- to mid-20th-century French song, and the loss of the texts in the transcription to cello hardly seems to matter. Casals set the precedent with his own transcription of ‘Après un rêve’ which opens the disc. For the other 22 tracks the words ‘transcription’ and ‘arrangement’ are nowhere to be found, though some adjustments to the vocal line must surely have been necessary. With Maisky’s part so wholly lyrical and free from technically showy passages, interpretation is everything. Both he and Hovora seem so drenched in the sensuous world of French song that they appear to breathe naturally with the songs’ phrasing, and make this disc an outstanding listening experience. I imagine the transcriptions might not work so well with every player, however. Many tracks, Chausson’s Serenade and Duparc’s ‘Chanson triste’, for example, have a wonderful laziness and lassitude of a hot summer’s afternoon in a hammock; the beauty of others, like Debussy’s ‘Beau soir’, takes the breath away. Hovora proves a pianist of exceptional sensitivity, bringing out her own melodies from within the texture with bell-like clarity.