LABELS: L’empreinte digitale
PERFORMER: Michel Piquemal (baritone), Christine Lajarrige (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ED 13187
All-Fauré recitals are surprisingly rare. And this disc offers a useful conspectus of his exquisite craft as a songwriter, from the Romantic, Italianate ‘Chanson du pêcheur’ of around 1871 to the elusive miniature song cycle L’horizon chimérique composed half a century later. Michel Piquemal, a one-time pupil of Pierre Bernac, has a rather dry, reedy timbre, and can sound effortful at climaxes – say, in the impassioned ‘Fleur jetée’, where, not for the only time, I longed for a richer, more freely produced tone. Grace, lightness and caressing tenderness do not come easily to him; and for all his good intentions, ‘Nell’ and ‘Mandoline’ are somewhat charmless, ‘Après un rêve’ unmagical. But Piquemal often compensates for a lack of sensuous beauty with his idiomatic command of line and phrasing and his clear diction. He movingly captures the mysterious twilit calm of ‘En sourdine’, the weary disenchantment of ‘Spleen’, and the anguish of ‘Au cimitière’, building inexorably to a despairing climax (the hint of strain somehow apt here) before the sad serenity of the close. And abetted by the sensitive, firmly etched playing of Christine Lajarrige, Piquemal gives a fine reading of L’horizon chimérique, less subtly coloured than, say, Souzay’s, but sung with the directness, integrity and breadth of phrasing typical of his best performances on this disc.