Fauré • Duparc • Ravel

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Fauré; Duparc; Ravel
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré • Duparc • Ravel
WORKS: Mélodies
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone)Gérard Wyss (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 446 686-2

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This disc gives a panoramic glimpse of Fauré, Duparc and Ravel up to and including the zenith of the French mélodie between 1870 and 1920. French is one of the most difficult languages for any singer, even native French speakers. There are mute vowels, nasal vowels, strong accents and guttural ‘r’ sounds to be negotiated so that none of these language problems detracts from the singer’s sound or disturbs the interpretation. Holzmair’s is not yet idiomatic French which is sometimes irritating.

Nonetheless this is a superb musical offering. Holzmair, as he has demonstrated in his German song interpretations, has the gift of total absorption in a character’s emotion, be it only for one short song. His piquant and intense vocal timbre on this recording is immeasurably moving. Fauré’s cycle to Verlaine texts, La bonne chanson (described by Pierre Bernac as the only happy song cycle ever written) and the six Duparc songs, particularly ‘Chanson triste’, ‘Extase’ and ‘L’invitation au voyage’, contain exquisitely sculptured phrases and many superbly tapered final notes. Holzmair has just the right melancholic tenderness in his voice for this repertoire, only occasionally allowing too much vibrato on certain notes, and Wyss delivers exceptionally fine accompaniments with wonderful depth of tone and an atmospheric presence all his own.

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Elise McDougall