Fauré; Poulenc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Fauré; Poulenc
LABELS: Etcetera
WORKS: L’Horizon Chimérique; Poème d’un jour; Mirages, Op. 113 (Fauré); Tel jour, telle nuit; Chansons villageoises; La Fraîcheur et le Feu (Poulenc)
PERFORMER: Thomas Oliemans (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)


This is a very honest and thoughtfully presented disc and if, despite Malcolm Martineau’s superior playing, I cannot give it five stars, that is almost entirely owing to an occasional dryness in Thomas Olieman’s tone and to the old problem of this repertoire being treacherous ground for the non-Francophone singer.

In general Poulenc is better served here than Fauré. Oliemans adjusts the voice adroitly between the floated notes of ‘Une herbe pauvre’ and the bumptiousness of ‘Les gars qui vont à la fête’. In fact the whole of Tel jour, telle nuit is finely done, albeit at a semitone below the printed text; a wise move, given that elsewhere Olieman’s high notes in full voice are not always perfectly placed. Among the perennial difficulties for non-Francophone singers are the hidden ‘r’s in words like ‘opportune’ and Oliemans does not catch them all.

But the most intractable problems arise simply from the weighting of what can seem like innocuous phrases: once you’ve heard Charles Panzera’s ‘aimless seagulls’ (‘goélands perdus’) gliding over the waters, any other version tends to sound earthbound; and no other singer has ever matched the impassioned majesty of his ‘grands départs inassouvis’, the great unassuaged departures that the aged Fauré surely lamented from the heart.


Tempos are overall well judged, but I would question those for L’horizon chimérique, the cycle here lasting around 8:25 as against the 6:50 of Panzera, for whom the cycle was written. Such slow speeds merely accentuate difficulties of phrasing. Roger Nichols