Duparc: Mélodies (complete)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Duparc
LABELS: Timpani
WORKS: Mélodies (complete)
PERFORMER: Mireille Delunsch (soprano), Vincent Le Texier (baritone), Guy Flechter (tenor), François Kerdoncuff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 1C1053 (distr. www.timpani-records.com)
Two tracks in, you may be hooked for life on both singer and composer. It’s a mystery that there are so few complete recordings of such popular recital fare, since all Duparc’s songs fit neatly on one disc. Even Gérard Souzay’s famous sets from the Fifties and Sixties are unavailable. Yet this powerful music, a hybrid of German-style ballads and French Wagnerism, radiates a uniquely haunting combination of grandeur and sensitivity.

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Delunsch’s is the voice to hear, steeped in Baudelaire’s ‘luxe, calme et volupté’ and a recommended role model for those English singers who otherwise make it all so sad. Hers is a high-ranging soprano given depth and power by frankness, spacious phrasing, and virtuoso control of vibrato and dynamics. Kerdoncuff’s playing catches the same breadth. Even the tragic songs have unusual inner vitality; ‘Phidylé’ and ‘La vie antérieure’ are positively soul-stirring.

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Le Texier is a heavier proposition, again powerful and operatic, but less supple and sometimes pushing at the peaks. Still, he’s strong in his own right and worth hearing for the six out of 17 songs he takes. The personable, ardent tenor of Guy Flechter joins Delunsch for the duet ‘La fuite’. If you’re pining for the more intimate Souzay manner, Bernard Kruysen and Noël Lee have the answer for the 12 core songs (Auvidis), and Sarah Walker or Thomas Allen fans will want their Hyperion set with Roger Vignoles. Otherwise, go for Delunsch. Robert Maycock