Fauré and his poets – Le papillon et la fleur; Tristesse; Les berceaux; Après un rêve; Le secret; Les roses d’ispahan; Les présents; Mandoline; Larmes; Soir; La fleur qui va sur l’eau etc
Marc Mauillon (baritone), Anne Le Bozec (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902636 74.11 mins
On Wikipedia Marc Mauillon is listed as ‘sometimes tenor, sometimes baritone’, this being interpreted as a welcome sign of diversity. This may these days be the in-word in other areas, but I’m not sure singing is one of them. On the plus side, every word Mauillon sings is audible and he has an enchanting mezza voce, which he sensibly doesn’t use too often. But although described here as a baritone, he lacks the richness of tone and the array of colours one needs to perform this music. Fauré was fed up with being classified as a composer of the shadows where everything was hints and nuances, with red blood in short supply.
Anne Le Bozec provides rather more variety: the doom-laden left-hand octaves in ‘Chant d’automne’ peal out menacingly and she is respectful of Fauré’s pedalling with welcome contrasts between pedalled and non-pedalled textures. But it’s the vocal colours I miss, together with a rhythmic flexibility that has nothing to do with brainless abandon: the tiniest inflection of tempo can evoke surprise, disappointment, relief and a host of other emotions. Here everything is correct but no more. Finally, another thing I miss is any portamento in the vocal line. On this point, Mauillon is, sadly, a man of his era. But there’s no getting away from the fact that in Fauré’s time and beyond this was a standard item in the singer’s repertoire, bringing life and warmth to words such as ‘amour’ and ‘caresse’. Roger Nichols