Faure: Mélodies

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COMPOSERS: Faure
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Mélodies
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto), Catherine Collard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61439 2 DDD
This latest recital from Nathalie Stutzmann comes as a sadly unexpected tribute to her pianist, the late Catherine Collard, to whom these performances of Fauré are a fitting memorial. They celebrate Collard’s variety of tone and response to the composer, from the light-filled ‘Le papillon et la fleur’, composed in Fauré’s school dining-room, to the subtlety of the mature Verlaine settings. The recording, though, heavy and close, is unflattering to the piano’s own voice.

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Stutzmann’s contralto is naturally suited to both the full-hearted blossoming of ‘Mai’ and to the darker colours of ‘Les berceaux’ and ‘Nocturne’. She is able both to capture the sombre intensity of the mournful ‘Chanson du pêcheur’ (also set by Berlioz in his Nuits d’été ) and to let its words drift lightly into place in each line. This skill at judging the total mood and movement of a song characterises the Gautier settings like ‘Tristesse’ and the mystiques barcarolles of ‘A Clymène’.

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She is unable, though, to float the voice to catch the more fugitive fragrances, hopes and fears of songs like ‘Au bord de l’eau’ and ‘Rêve d’amour’; and the ‘Roses d’Ispahan’ keep their scent very much to themselves. Hilary Finch