Debussy Songs

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COMPOSERS: Claude Debussy
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Debussy Songs
WORKS: Fêtes galantes; Proses lyriques; Chansons de Bilitis; Ariettes oubliées de Mallarmé
PERFORMER: Lona Anderson, Lisa Milne (sopranos), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


There is certainly no haste to this survey of Debussy songs. Hyperion released the fine first volume, featuring Christopher Maltman, in 2003. At this rate, the third volume should arrive around the centenary of Debussy’s death in 2018. On this CD, Malcolm Martineau’s nuanced pianism partners Lorna Anderson and Lisa Milne in a sequence spanning most of Debussy’s creative life, from the first set of Fêtes galantes to the Trois poèmes de Mallarme.

Anderson and Milne are contrasting in approach. Anderson effortlessly glides through Debussy’s limpid, lengthy phrases, while Milne’s shivering sense of wonder is Mélisande-like in its pent-up excitement. Anderson’s rich tone and control is striking in the lower passages of songs like ‘En sourdine’ and ‘La chevelure’, and radiant in her more crystalline upper register.

Milne’s breathy approach to the sublime Ariettes oubliées has plenty of frisson about it. Her intense characterisation occasionally verges on trying too hard, her voice not always sounding totally secure. This may be context, though, as it is a moot point whether the divergent approaches of these two enjoyable singers provides the best of both worlds, or they cancel each other out, for Anderson seems momentarily plain after Milne’s passionate expression. Put another way, it would be marvellous to hear each sing the other’s songs.


Christopher Dingle