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Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne

Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Pascal Rophé (BIS)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Chants d’Auvergne
Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Pascal Rophé
BIS BIS-2513 (CD/SACD)   69:02 mins


Only the persistently churlish would try to resist the charms of Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne. The work of more than three decades, these exquisite settings of folksongs in the composer’s native Auvergne dialect eschew literalism for a deeper understanding of a rapidly disappearing culture. Soprano Carolyn Sampson now joins the long line of singers from luxury casting who have been attracted to Canteloube’s labour of love with a selection of 25 songs.

Her characterisation is superb, elated in ‘Lo calhe’ (The Quail), playfully coquettish in ‘Tchut, tchut’ (Shush, shush), yet unaffectedly tender in ‘Brezairola’ (Lullaby). Sampson is unafraid to move her voice out of its default exquisiteness where needed, notably in the pair of animal songs ‘Hé! beyla-z-y dau fé!’ (Hey! Give him some hay!) and ‘Te, l’eco, te!’ (Run, dog, run!). Only ‘Passo pel prat’ (Go through the meadow) is underplayed, lacking a little swagger. The Tapiola Sinfonietta under Pascal Rophé are equally spirited, with shimmering strings and plenty of woodwind colour captured sumptuously by BIS’s SACD sound.

There is so much to admire here, and yet niggles also accumulate. Two instances will suffice. Sampson floats beguilingly above the orchestra’s drowsy stillness in ‘Bailero’, but some of the oboe’s decorative chirrups disappear amidst the palpable sense of heat-haze. The three Bourrées have plenty of spirit, Sampson enjoying her yelps and apparently stamping along, but breaks are inexplicably left before the linking oboe and clarinet solos. Such frustrations aside, though, few can match Sampson’s overall sense of exuberant joy in these wonderful songs.


Christopher Dingle