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Britten • Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne etc

Mari Eriksmoen (soprano); Bergen Philharmonic/Edward Gardner (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CHSA5289_Britten

Britten • Canteloube
Britten: Quatre Chansons Françaises; Les illuminations; Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne
Mari Eriksmoen (soprano); Bergen Philharmonic/Edward Gardner
Chandos CHSA 5289 (CD/SACD)   74:15 mins

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In Britten’s Les illuminations, the generally bell-like accuracy of Norwegian soprano Mari Eriksmoen’s singing is more than matched by the expressive truth of her interpretations. She is most beguiling when floating her voice weightlessly and with a serene joie de vivre in ‘Antique’, perfectly partnered by the lovely violin playing of the Bergen Philharmonic leader Melina Mandozzi. And the crisp precision with which Eriksmoen despatches her commentary on the grotesque ‘Parade’, rapid-fire low Gs included, is spellbinding.

So why not five stars? Notwithstanding the Bergen orchestra’s excellent playing, Edward Gardner takes some liberties with Britten’s meticulous score. In ‘Interlude’, as in his previous recording of Les illuminations (also on Chandos), he disregards Britten’s repeated requests for forte appassionato, taking the piece at a listless tempo and starting each falling string phrase a wan mezzo piano. Gardner also introduces several new misreadings: in ‘Fanfare’, a premature upward glissando slightly spoils the effect of building to an exuberant boil; and the rather too perky tempo (certainly not maestoso) taken for ‘Royauté’ makes it seem fidgety rather than endearingly excited. Furthermore, Eriksmoen’s tuning in ‘Being Beauteous’ is a microtone flat through the first dozen bars, which rather spoils the G major resolution.

Quatre Chansons, the 14-year-old Britten’s ravishing settings of various French poets, offer a fair appetiser. But Canteloube’s picture postcard-style Auvergne folksong settings, charming and amusing in small doses, pall after the first half dozen, though the 14 performed are well contrasted and engagingly sung.

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Daniel Jaffé