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Une soirée chez Berlioz

Stéphanie d’Oustrac (mezzo-soprano), Thibaut Roussel (guitar), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Une soirée chez Berlioz
Works by Berlioz, Dalayrac, Della-Maria, Devienne, Lélu, Liszt, Martini, Meissonnier, Plantade & Zan de Ferranti
Stéphanie d’Oustrac (mezzo-soprano), Thibaut Roussel (guitar), Tanguy de Williencourt (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902504   64:34 mins

This disc is of considerable historical interest in giving us not only the sound of Berlioz’s own guitar, but nine of the arrangements he made in his youth for voice and guitar of music he liked. I can’t say these have enormous musical interest, and their blandness is brought into even sharper focus by being set against pieces by Berlioz himself, either, as with ‘Élégie en prose’, in their original version or, as with the piano piece L’idée fixe, in Liszt’s truculent fantasia on that theme from the Symphonie fantastique. These choices from his youth, beginning almost inevitably with ‘Plaisir d’amour’, need considerable nuancing from the singer in the way of colour and articulation, otherwise interest does flag. Stéphanie d’Oustrac is, for many music lovers, the Carmen of the present day and in the dramatic ‘Élégie en prose’ she shows why. But the pieces by Devienne, Dalayrac
et al don’t really suit her voice, calling as they do for one that is lighter and more flexible, and for an approach that at least tries to reflect the emotions behind the words, facile though these generally are.

The sound of Berlioz’s guitar, donated to him by the Musée of the Conservatoire when he was appointed curator of it in 1866, is attractively mellow, and nearer to the modern sound of the 1842 Pleyel piano, whose delicate sonorities suit the music perfectly. Both instruments are played with great style, contributing a good deal to this disc’s value.


Roger Nichols