COMPOSERS: De Séverac
PERFORMER: François Le Roux (baritone), Patricia Rozario (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66983
A contemporary of Debussy and Ravel, the Provençal composer Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921) was, writes the pianist Graham Johnson in his erudite and informative notes to this disc, ‘considered by many distinguished critics to be the third man in a triumvirate of youthful talent’. Though Johnson concedes this is hyperbole, he is a convincing champion, and interpreter, of these elegant, melodious settings of poems by Verlaine, Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Maeterlinck, among others. At their best (‘A l’aube dans la montagne’), they echo Debussy in their colour. In fact much of their appeal comes from spotting the influences of other composers (Berlioz, Franck, Duparc). But they’re attractive rather than strikingly original or enduring.
Arguably the Pelléas of his generation, François Le Roux has been an outstanding interpreter of mélodies and is in many ways an ideal advocate for this neglected oeuvre. But his voice, once an effulgent, secure high baritone, is not what it was. That it has deepened (he now sings Golaud) doesn’t matter; but that it is fraying at the edges almost to the point of tremulousness in some of the higher sustained notes makes for occasionally uneasy listening. Claire Wrathall