Chansons Perpétuelles

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Faure,Koechlin and Chausson,Lekeu,Rachmaninov,Wolf
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Chansons Perpétuelles
WORKS: Works by Lekeu, Wolf, Fauré, Rachmaninov, Koechlin and Chausson
PERFORMER: Marie-Nicole Lemieux (contralto), Roger Vignoles (piano); Psophos Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: V 5355

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Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux is that rare thing, a true contralto of star quality, but in this programme she wears it more lightly than most. She deftly scales down her powerful voice to suit the predominantly sensuous, languid melancholy of these mélodies from the last decade of the 19th century – literally fin de siècle. They’re more varied than this suggests, though, with outbursts of lyricism and even playfulness, especially in the less usual Koechlin songs. Si tu le veux and L’hiver, with its icily rippling accompaniment, are especially welcome and beautifully played by the great Roger Vignoles, who records with Lemieux for the first time. The selections from Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch and the Fauré pieces are more familiar, but less so in a voice of this type. Her tone is rich but clear and steady, her resonant lower register unleashed only momentarily to strong effect, never overpowering the words. Her diction, naturally best in French, is also fine in Rachmaninov and Wolf, and her feeling for the verses is evident and expressive. This, with strong support from Vignoles and the Psophos Quartet, helps her avoid the creeping sameness that can afflict so many French song programmes. Naïve’s recording and presentation are as usual fine, and the only minor complaint is the booklet’s Russian transliterations, which are often rather inaccurate.

Altogether this is an intelligent, appealing recital, and its impressiveness grows with listening.

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Michael Scott Rohan