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Boulanger Sisters: Clairières and Mélodies Double Review

Nicholas Phan (tenor), Myra Huang (piano) (Avie) and Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Tristan Raës (piano) (Aparte)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

L Boulanger: Reflets; Attente; Clairières dans la ciel; N Boulanger: Versailles; Heures ternes; Cantique; La mer est plus belle; Soleil couchants; Soir d’hiver
Nicholas Phan (tenor), Myra Huang (piano)
Avie AV2414   53.17 mins

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Rating: 4 stars


L Boulanger: Quatre Chants; N Boulanger: Priere; Poème d’amour; Versailles; Écoutez la chanson bien douce; Le Couteau; Heures ternes; Soir d’hiver; Élégie; La Mer; Les heures claires
Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Tristan Raës (piano)
Aparté AP224   66.00 mins

Rating: 5 stars

Two sisters, two promising compositional careers cut short, two discs celebrating their talents. A harsh self-critic, Nadia Boulanger stopped composing a few years after the death, aged just 24, of her harmonically more daring younger sister Lili. With just six songs in common, these new discs complement each other in confirming that two great talents were silenced too soon.

Nicholas Phan and Myra Huang’s intelligently programmed recital gathers settings of Maeterlinck and Verlaine by the sisters as preparation for Lili’s remarkable 13-song cycle Clairières dans le ciel. Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës have a stronger emphasis on Nadia’s songs, with just four from Lili as the centrepiece. Moreover, there is a genuine rarity in the form Les heures claires, a cycle that has the unusual distinction of genuinely being jointly composed, Nadia partnered by Raoul Pugno. An attractive work, it crowns a mesmerising recital.

Dubois first impressed more than 20 years ago as an exceptionally assured treble in a disc of Brossard’s demanding Petits Motets (Assai Records). That early talent has transformed into a tenor voice of exquisite beauty, with deceptive ease across the entire range allied to an emotional depth that is all the more profound for its lack of histrionics. It is ideally suited for the post-Fauré nuances of Nadia’s songs, supported by the exquisite touch and colours of Raës.

Enchanting when intimate, Phan possesses notable changes of colour, with some magical high singing at the end of Nadia’s ‘Reflets’. When more impassioned, such as at the climax of ‘La mer est plus belle’, he strays towards harshness. Such moments are few, though, and with Huang’s warm pianism there is much to cherish, especially in this searching performance of Clairières. Phan’s disc is an ideal introduction to this repertoire, while Dubois broadens its scope and is sublimely sung. Christopher Dingle



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