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Les Six

Franziska Heinzen (soprano), Benjamin Mead (piano) (Solo Musica)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
SM357_Six

Les Six
Songs by Auric, Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc and Tailleferre
Franziska Heinzen (soprano), Benjamin Mead (piano)
Solo Musica SM357   49:44 mins

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On the face of it, a recording of the piano pieces making up the 1920 Album des Six, together with songs from these composers’ later years, seems a good idea. Including Satie is also fair, as being their mentor. But there are pitfalls. Not least that, apart from a jolly ‘Valse’ by Poulenc, the music really isn’t up to much: enough that it served its propaganda purpose of launching the musicians’ group.

The later songs are much better on the whole, with a delightful ‘Chansons françaises’ by Germaine Tailleferre. Unlike Auric, Honegger and Milhaud, she never subscribed to the ‘wrong-note’ brigade, relying rather on her command of orthodox melody and harmony. But the choice of the two songs making up Poulenc’s Miroirs brûlants is a mistake for two reasons. Firstly, Poulenc later admitted that ‘Je nommerai ton front’ was a ‘dud piece’, and when he and the baritone Pierre Bernac were on tour they always substituted another song, Bernac claiming that Poulenc was better writing about love than hate. Secondly, ‘Tu vois le feu du soir’ is absolute confirmation of this claim, Poulenc saying it was the work of his he’d take to his desert island. Not only is it the longest piece on the disc, frankly it blows all the other songs out of the water.

The soprano, Franziska Heinzen, has a pleasant, light voice, though not at its best on loud, high notes, while the pianist, Benjamin Mead, is capable but unwilling to supply the charm Poulenc asks for in his ‘Valse’.

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Roger Nichols