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Massenet: Songs with Orchestra

Véronique Gens, Jodie Devos, Nicole Car, Chantal Santon Jeffery (soprano), Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Étienne Dupuis (baritone); Orchestre de chambre de Paris/Hervé Niquet (Bru Zane)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Massenet
Songs with Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Jodie Devos, Nicole Car, Chantal Santon Jeffery (soprano), Cyrille Dubois (tenor), Étienne Dupuis (baritone); Orchestre de chambre de Paris/Hervé Niquet
Bru Zane BZ2004   66:40 mins

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Of the 22 songs included here, all except one are recorded for the first time, so anyone with an interest in Massenet or in the French mélodie is likely to want this recording. Inevitably some of the six singers seem more at home than others.

Véronique Gens of course is an artist to treasure and as always she responds alertly to the demands of text and melodic line. Of the others, I was especially taken by the tenor Cyrille Dubois, who is surely not far from being that quintessential French voice the ‘Trial’, required by Ravel for the role of Torquemada in L’heure espagnole. It’s a light voice, projected by exemplary diction, with a finely controlled top – Dubois closes the selection with a thrown-away top C.

Although the operas Manon and Werther show Massenet’s great talent as a dramatist, one should not look to these songs for deep emotion. Nor is this statement a complaint. The realist in Massenet prevented him from trying to condense such emotion into a three-minute song, when his talents in this genre were for much longer forms. Some of the most delightful music here, orchestrated with elegant accuracy, comes in the jolly, jokey songs such as ‘Aurore’ and ‘Pitchounette’, reminding us of the composer’s gift (too rarely exercised, in my view) for comic invention. Call this recording one of ‘easy listening’ if you like, but in these times of war, strikes and inflation, surely such finely crafted and enjoyable works have their place.

Roger Nichols

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