Chausson/Berlioz

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Chausson/Berlioz
LABELS: FNAC Music
WORKS: Poème de l’amour et de la mer; Nuits d’été
PERFORMER: Françoise Pollet (soprano)Monte Carlo PO/Armin Jordan
CATALOGUE NO: 592275 DDD (distr. by Nimbus)
The subject of ‘faded love and comforting sea’, as the disc’s notes so elegantly put it, was irresistible to the romantic Gallic muse; and this coupling of Chausson’s and Berlioz’s response to the subject is an obvious but surprisingly rare one in the catalogue. Delight in the project and in the soft-grained orchestral playing and naturally inflected soprano of Françoise Pollet soon, though, turned to disappointment.

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Armin Jordan’s languid pacing, and the hint of unwelcome over-wide vibrato in Pollet’s voice adequately serves Chausson’s Wagner-tinted marine mélange. Berlioz and his summer nights come off less well. The presence of a true soprano (rather than a mezzo) brings a pleasant sense of dappled forest light to ‘Villanelle’ and a pearly translucency to ‘Au cimetière’. But the orchestral accompaniment tends to chunter along, and Pollet’s voice, showing the strain of so many recent heavy dramatic soprano roles, sounds over-vibrant and threadbare at the top. Tempi are generally just too slow for this playing and this voice, blunting the work’s edge of bitterness and irony with an all-pervasive and debilitating melancholy. Hilary Finch