ALBUM TITLE: Faure: Chansons Vol. 1
WORKS: Chansons Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Sarah Walker (mezzo-soprano) Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 3477CD DDD
The half-light of an April morning and a tentative rustle of spring make a timely appearance at the heart of a new volume (the first of two) of Fauré songs from Sarah Walker. Part of the cycle Le jardin clos, eight late settings of the Belgian Symbolist poet Charles van Lerberghe, their easeful outflowing of word into music tunes in well to this particular stage in Walker’s own career. When under pressure, either of pitch or volume, her mezzo-soprano can be unsettled by unwelcome vibrato; and the sense of disquiet in ‘Chant d’automne’ does give a glimpse of this tendency.
Elsewhere, though, the concentration of recording and the understatement of many of these songs focus the voice rewardingly. Walker and Martineau respond particularly acutely to the restraint of the settings of the anti-Romantic poet Armand Silvestre. And, in the words of Felix Aprahamian’s sensitive translation, ‘All breath becomes voice!’ in the weightless movement of four earlier Victor Hugo settings. Here, in the glow of Martineau’s luminous accompaniment, Walker controls every short line, every little melisma with wit and grace. I particularly enjoyed, too, their re-creation of a sense of elusive regret through Fauré’s oblique harmonies in ‘Les présents’, a Symbolist song for which Proust had a special affection.