Chausson: Songs (complete)

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs (complete)
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott, Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Chris Pedro Trakas (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano); Chilingirian Quartet
When Chausson fatally drove his bicycle into a wall in 1899, it was, in the words of the booklet note accompanying these fine recordings, a ‘song-cycling disaster’. For Chausson personally, however, it may have been something of a relief. Although in letters he professed himself contented with the life he shared with his wife and five children, his songs paint a picture of intense regret. Chronically unconfident, he was drawn to the poetry of ennui, lassitude, impotence, exhaustion, hopelessness and loss of love. The songs make for an impressive if depressing oeuvre, and all of them are here. Felicity Lott, who sings a cycle of Maeterlinck settings of almost self-parodying gloominess (‘O this blue ennui in my heart!’), is radiant and unhurried and the pick of an excellent crop of singers. Ann Murray gives freer rein to her voice and is pleasantly expressive and expansive, contrasting with the ardent yet tender and generous baritone of Chris Pedro Trakas. Booklet notes of invaluable Chausson scholarship are slightly spoilt by a misstatement of the year of the composer’s death and a photograph captioned ‘Chausson in 1866’, when the composer would have been 11 – an assertion undermined by the subject’s magnificently copious beard. Christopher Wood