Works by Gounod, Bizet, Meyerbeer, Chabrier, Chausson and Magnard
Thomas Hampson (baritone), Maciej Pikulski (piano)
Pentatone 5186 681
This is a welcome French recital from Thomas Hampson. Given his long and distinguished pedigree in the operas of several composers presented here, it is surprising that he has explored their songs so little on disc. Especially so given that the Mélodie has a particular association with the baritone voice, and Hampson’s charm, insight and care rightfully take their place in that tradition.
Bearing the title ‘Serenade’, this collection is full of stimulating connections, progressions and juxtapositions, all captured in Pentatone’s typically warm, natural sound. Bizet’s night-time warning La Chanson du Fou is followed by the more carefree amorous nocturne of Meyerbeer’s Sicilienne. The ducks of Chabrier’s skittish Villanelle des petits carnards might appear to have little in common, yet, for a few moments, the piano introduction seemingly echoes the Meyerbeer. With the finely judged support of pianist Maciej Pikulski, Hampson’s changes of mood and character between and within the songs reflect his long experience. So, too, does his attention to detail, as is evident in the opening Gounod Serenade. Many a lesser singer would take an easier option with the flourishes that end each section, but Hampson punctiliously articulates each note. Here, as elsewhere, this is even when his approach draws attention to areas where his voice has lost a little of its former lustre and sparkle. Such moments are rare, though, and his tone and phrasing in the closing Les roses de l’amour by Magnard are simply exquisite.
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