Ombres – Women Composers of La belle époque
Songs by Bonis, Chaminade, Ferrari, Holmès, Viardot et al
Laetitia Grimaldi (soprano), Talia Erdal (cello), Ammiel Bushakevitz (piano)
BIS BIS-2546 (CD/SACD) 69:03 mins
This recital combines songs by increasingly familiar figures like Augusta Mary Anne Holmès, Mel Bonis, Cécile Chaminade and Pauline Viardot with more recent ‘rediscoveries’: Armande de Polignac, harpsichordist Juliette Folville, folklorist Marguerite Béclard d’Harcourt, pianist-poet Hélène-Frédérique de Faye-Jozin and opera composer Gabrielle Ferrari.
This fine duo has evidently done extensive research to assemble this innovative and attractive programme. Although each composer is unique, the recital is unified by the distinctive, otherworldly belle-epoque aesthetic.
Bonis’s songs have gloriously sensual piano accompaniments and unexpected harmonies. The melody of ‘Élève-toi mon âme’ soars alongside the cello obbligato, beautifully played by Talia Erdal. Bushakevitz’s fingers are fleet in the sparkling, rapid textures of Chaminade’s ‘Villanelle’, while ‘L’anneau d’argent’ is performed with tenderness and dignity.
Polignac transforms the mood, recalling Reynaldo Hahn, but with a more exploratory voice. ‘Jardin du roi’ brings magical tranquillity. Slighter songs, like that by Folville and Ferrari, are still delivered sympathetically.
Viardot’s mercurial cosmopolitanism is brilliantly showcased, with an enjoyable deep piano rumble in ‘Les ombres de minuit’ and a spacious, luminous rendition of ‘Les deux roses’. The single song by Béclard d’Harcourt is impressive.
Holmès’s songs are wonderfully operatic. The recitative-like ‘C’est un oiseau’ retains integrity of melody in this heartfelt performance. The deceptively simple ‘Les lavandières’ packs an expressive punch. ‘À Trianon’ makes a playful ending to this revelatory recital.
Grimaldi’s sweet-toned voice is often hugely appealing, and she’s excellently matched by Bushakevitz. Although I wanted more colouristic variety and expressive range, this delightful recital is a must for all French song-lovers.