Chaminade: Mots d’amour

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Chaminade
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Mots d’amour
PERFORMER: Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Bengt Forsberg, Peter Jablonski (piano), Nils-Erik Sparf (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 471 331-2
Most of the music here is recorded for the first time, but its quality shouldn’t surprise listeners who know Cécile Chaminade’s chamber and piano music. In her songs, the directness and classical simplicity

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of Gounod meet the verve and sophistication of Chabrier. The mix gives them a distinctive character, made the more engaging by her ear for a good melody. Of the handful of instrumental extras, the two-piano pieces are particularly exhilarating.

The one surprised person seems to be von Otter, who approaches them like a northerner ‘going French’, the delicate lines full of arch swoops and the romping pace thumped out. Superb technique, fine diction – you can take them for granted – but the performance often swamps the songs. Slower ones, as a rule, go better. Anything fast and risqué is like an elbow in the ribs.

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Although the songs were surely not meant to be heard straight off, the album is quite unmissable, at least until, say, Felicity Lott – who would be ideal – is persuaded to look at them. They may also, like Chabrier’s songs, become a gay attraction. It’s something about the melodic shapes and the unexpected withdrawals of tone, while the boisterous strut of ‘Bonne humeur’ and the insinuating swing of ‘Nice-La-Belle’ put it over as clear as day. Robert Maycock