Collection: French Song

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Duparc,Poulenc,Satie
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Proses lyriques; Le bestiaire; Ludions; Trois mélodies; Extase
PERFORMER: Della Jones (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9147 DDD

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Della Jones, more associated with opera than lieder and mélodies, makes her recorded entry into the latter arena with characteristic vigour. Hers is one of the most distinctively ‘personal’ voices around: a mezzo-soprano at once slim-lined, tangy and vibrant, schooled to serve freely almost every technical demand placed on it (apart from the easy floating of soft high phrases), and untainted by expressive inhibition.

She is a vital word-singer – while one occasionally senses a lack of idiomatic accuracy in her French delivery, this only makes Jones’s determination to tap meaning from every syllable more refreshing. Whether the subtle poetic undercurrents and lyrical half-lights of Debussy’s Proses lyriques take to such forthright artistry is perhaps a matter of the individual listener’s taste; I find the absence of the mimsy intoning that can pass for specialisation in this field welcome, the unvaried emotional intensity eventually rather wearisome.

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The broader lines of Duparc and bittersweet moods of Poulenc seem to respond much more positively to the Jones approach – admirably supported by Martineau and the Chandos engineers. And even if in Satie’s ‘Diva de L’Empire’ the hearty grisette inflections suggest a Merry Widow Valencienne vulgarly whooping it up, there’s no mistaking the singer’s zest and boldness of attack. Max Loppert