Susan Graham: French Songs

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Ideale Audience
WORKS: Songs by Bachelet, Bizet, Caplet, Chabrier, Debussy, Duparc, Fauré, Franck, Hahn, Honegger, Poulenc, Ravel, Roussel & Saint-Saëns
PERFORMER: Susan Graham (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano) (Église de Verbier, 2009)


An hour of pure delight. Those who have heard Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau’s 2008 collection Un frisson français (Onyx) will need little encouragement to seek out this DVD of the pair performing much of the same repertoire at the Verbier festival. They traverse the landscape of French song along byways more than highways, a song per composer, with never a moment being less than utterly mesmerising.

Graham is utterly at home in this repertoire, and performs it with élan, whether holding the audience in the palm of her hand in Bachelet’s rapturous ‘Chère nuit’, thrilling with Saint-Saëns ‘Danse macabre’, or inducing laughter with Ravel’s ‘Le paon’. Martineau is the perfect partner throughout, perfectly judging depth of tone, moving as one with Graham and displaying the same level of control.

This is properly live, recorded a touch closely, but with a palpable sense of occasion and involvement from the audience, though never obtrusively so. While her humanity radiates throughout this utterly enchanting concert, a slight misfire on reaching the last note of Franck’s Nocturne confirms that Graham is musically human.


The fun of Rosenthal’s ‘La souris d’Angleterre’ brings the house down, only for Poulenc’s mini-drama ‘La dame de Monte Carlo’ to run the gamut of emotions. Then, with a gentle smile, Hahn’s sublime ‘A chloris’ surpasses all that has come before. This performance comes strongly recommended. Christopher Dingle