Duparc: Mélodies

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Mélodies
PERFORMER: Paul Groves (tenor), Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557219
With carefully prepared performances of virtually all Duparc’s mélodies (only two female songs, ‘Au pays où se fait la guerre’ and ‘Romance de Mignon’, are missing), this Naxos disc has its obvious attractions. Paul Groves’s tenor is bright and incisive rather than sensuous. And abetted by Roger Vignoles’s imaginatively ‘orchestrated’ playing, he vividly catches the desperation and disenchantment of ‘Le manoir de Rosemonde’, and the tormented passion of ‘La vague et la cloche’. Elsewhere Groves can sensitively soften, as in his touching performances of ‘Soupir’ and ‘Chanson triste’. His French, the odd unidiomatic vowel apart, is clear and expressive; and by and large he is scrupulous over Duparc’s detailed, and crucial, dynamic markings. The lack of sensuous beauty in his tone – and his intermittently uneven legato – are most felt in the songs of voluptuous enchantment, above all ‘Phidylé’ and ‘L’invitation au voyage’. In the delicate, drowsy opening of ‘Phidylé’ Groves sounds dry and unmagical by comparison with Thomas Allen on Hyperion’s disc of the complete Duparc songs (also with the sympathetic, minutely observant Vignoles); and he brings too much tension, with too many small unwanted emphases, to the vision of ‘luxe, calme et volupté’ in ‘L’invitation au voyage’. Sarah Walker, on the same Hyperion recital, is far more evocative here. For all my reservations, which also include an over-resonant acoustic, this new disc gives a fair introduction to Duparc’s exquisite art. But for a few extra pounds the Hyperion set offers the two ‘missing’ songs, more intimately communicative performances and a more sympathetic recorded ambience. Richard Wigmore