Collection: Melodies

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dutilleux,Faure,Poulenc,Ravel
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Histoires naturelles; Quatre mélodies; La bonne chanson; La fraîcheur et le feu
PERFORMER: Patrick Mason (baritone)Robert Spillman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BCD 9058 DDD

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The more one listens to Fauré, the more it becomes clear just how difficult his art is for even the native speaker to realise. Few singers achieve the eloquence of a Gérard Souzay or a Janet Baker in breathing convincing life into those flickering patterns of word and note; so few can really recreate their unique volupté de la mélancolie. CRD’s ‘Chansons’ series (this is the third of four discs) is always welcome for its presentation of rarities which seldom surface among the few favoured songs which circulate in recitals. Their casting, though, is less of a joy.

This disc, for instance, is dominated by the Finnish baritone Tom Krause, whose opaque timbre and syllabic French never quite allow the voice to open out into the sunlight and the rapture of so many of these songs. His dark vowels are effective enough in the sombre ‘La chanson du pêcheur’, but it is very much Malcolm Martineau’s piano playing which propels the voice through both the little triptych Poème d’un jour and through Fauré’s major cycle La bonne chanson.

The French baritone Vincent le Texier recharges the music’s rhythmic life in ‘Les matelots’ and ‘Le voyageur’ in his vowel-lively words, and finds the tremulous inner life of songs such as ‘Automne’ and ‘Fleur jetée’. His virile, extrovert baritone is not a voice of remarkable beauty or subtlety, though, and his performance of Fauré’s late farewell, L’horizon chimérique, is only one-dimensional.

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By far the most alluring voice is the clear, supple baritone of American Patrick Mason. He has a sensitive and keenly intelligent grasp of Fauré’s language for La bonne chanson and although the piano playing can sound a little boxy, he also offers compelling performances of Poulenc, Ravel and Dutilleux in this unusual and imaginatively planned recital. Hilary Finch