ALBUM TITLE: Fiançailles Pour Rire
WORKS: Songs by Chabrier, Chausson, Duparc, Fauré and Poulenc
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay (soprano), Laurent Naouri (baritone), Philippe Cassard (piano); Quatuor Ebène
CATALOGUE NO: 256 4611440
Natalie Dessay as La fille du régiment set a standard of performance in the role unlikely to be equalled for many years. But the mélodie is a different animal. Here the broad brush of opera has to be exchanged for the engravings, woodcuts and watercolours of an art that relies on intimacy and nuance. Reluctantly, I have to repeat the criticisms I made of her venture into Debussy songs (April 2012). Not only does listening to her high G sharp at full steam require stronger nerves than mine, but the disc is awash with inaccuracies of rhythm and dynamics, Poulenc being the chief victim. In general he is explicit about dynamics, but here such concerns are swept aside, with often no differentiation whatever between forte and piano.
Perhaps the most damaging problem is that Dessay’s voice lacks variety of colour, only accentuated by this steamrolling through what should be contrasts. Philippe Cassard too offends in rhythmic matters: over the final two bars of both ‘Violon’ and ‘Fleurs’ Poulenc’s ‘strictement en mesure’ goes for nothing. How could he possibly make his wishes clearer? Also the final chords both in ‘Fleurs’ and Duparc’s ‘Extase’ wrongly retain traces of previous notes through inattentive pedalling. As for the huge interpolated pause in ‘Fleurs’ before the return of ‘Fleurs promises’… time for a coffee, I think.