Songs, Vol. 4: La bonne chanson; L’horizon chimérique; 2 Songs, Op. 43 etc
Lorna Anderson, Isobel Buchanan (soprano), Sarah Connolly, Kitty Whately, Ann Murray (mezzo), Iestyn Davies (countertenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), John Chest (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Signum Classics SIGCD681 68:07 mins
Signum’s ongoing series of the complete Fauré songs is an utter joy and this latest volume is a tremendously valuable addition. It presents some of the rarest numbers alongside the much better-known La bonne chanson, and ranges from early works through to his final song cycle, L’horizon chimérique.
The concept of the series mixes singers from different generations – all of them British – which provides a vivid palette of colours for the superb pianist Malcolm Martineau to play with. Everybody has something different to offer and there are surprises aplenty. It’s unusual to hear a countertenor sing Fauré, but Iestyn Davies does him proud with three perceptive, beautifully wrought items, including ‘En prière’. Isobel Buchanan gives heartfelt performances, even if the songs she tackles are set perhaps a little bit too high. Soprano Lorna Anderson has charm and charisma, while Sarah Connolly’s account of ‘Prison’, on the Verlaine poem, has an emotional directness that tears at the heart.
John Mark Ainsley is a focused, exact tenor with great attention to detail; Ann Murray offers a shining tone, delineating exquisitely streamlined phrases in the first Vocalise, and John Chest in L’horizon chimérique finds a fine balance between rich tone and subtlety, a fitting conclusion to Fauré’s vocal oeuvre. Martineau is magnificent throughout and recorded sound quality is very good.
But the centrepiece is the radiant account of La bonne chanson from Kitty Whately, an intelligent and characterful take, overflowing with sensuous gorgeousness that manages never to overwhelm the work’s finesse.