Faure/Ravel/Poulenc

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Faure/Ravel/Poulenc
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Clair de lune; Cinq mélodies ‘de Venise’; Cinq mélodies populaires grecques; Don Quichotte à Dulcinée; Le travail du peintre
PERFORMER: Thomas Allen (baritone)Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45053 2 DDD
It is initially very difficult to find fault with this disc of mélodies. From the opening bars of ‘Aurore’ by Fauré to the last phrases of Poulenc’s ‘Jacques Villon’, Thomas Allen sings with consummate skill. Clear pronunciation and carefully controlled phrasing and dynamics are matched by well-judged tempi and Roger Vignoles’s exquisite piano-playing. It is true that the recording occasionally makes Allen’s voice sound rather like a record playing too slowly, but this is a minor quibble in a technically flawless disc.

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And yet I feel unable to give this collection unqualified praise. It is not that there is anything wrong with the performances, but in a recital which ranges from complete desolation to sexual ecstasy I had expected a comparable sense of emotional fluctuation from Allen. I perceived, instead, a rather un-Gallic reticence which left me with some beautiful singing but precious little passion.

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That said, this uncharacteristic reserve is largely restricted to the Fauré songs and is, of course, quite appropriate in some cases, such as the delectable ‘Le secret’. The recital does spring into life with Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée and the disc is worth having just for the wonderful performance of Poulenc’s Le travail du peintre. Christopher Dingle