Regards sur l’Infini
Songs by Messiaen, Duttileux, Debussy, Delbos and Kaija Saariaho
Katharine Dain (soprano), Sam Armstrong (piano)
7 Mountain 7MNTN024 69:00 mins
This partnership gives promise of being an invaluable one in both technique, sonority and understanding. Given their patently serious approach, I venture to offer advice which might help turn this promise into fact. Firstly, if Katharine Dain is going to write liner notes (in general, a desire to be applauded in a performer), she needs to do her research. In 1892, when Debussy began his Proses lyriques, he was 30, not 20; the ‘recent heartbreak’ she mentions refers, I suppose, to Catherine Stevens’s refusal to marry him, which we now know, from a farewell copy of La Damoiselle élue he dedicated to her in August 1893, dates from that month, by which time the Proses lyriques were finished; finally they are not the only songs set to his own words, being followed by his little Noël of 1915.
The generally splendid performances are at times marred by the piano being too loud, especially in the more excitable moments of Poémes pour Mi. Dain’s French is mostly excellent, but she misses several necessary liaisons between words, and in examples such as ‘emperlée’ and ‘navrée’, in the first of the Proses lyriques, the final mute ‘e’s have to be pronounced. Also she needs to attend to final consonants, as in the opening words ‘Le lac’ of the second Poème, which supply vital information for the song and where the final ‘c’ here is barely audible.
These small points are worth making only because these two fine performers will clearly go far.