WORKS: Songs by Debussy, Fauré, Honegger, Poulenc, Ravel, Vuillermoz
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin (soprano), Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ACD2 2642
The great British soprano Maggie Teyte used to say, ‘Sing Mozart well and the rest will take care of itself’. One could amend that to say ‘Sing Baroque and Classical music well and the French mélodie will take care of itself’. For all its surface Romantic allure, the genre thrives on disciplined interpretation and especially on a firm basic pulse that still allows the music, and the singer, to breathe.
One of the many joys of this fine disc is the absolute refusal of singer or accompanist either to wallow in sentiment or to indulge in wayward self-promotion. Karina Gauvin’s voice is one of rare beauty, with a high register fully integrated with the middle, so you never, as with many sopranos, feel her pressing a button marked ‘top floor’. As a French Canadian, she’s not daunted by those treacherous diphthongs, and my only slight reservation, especially in the Fauré and Debussy songs, would be over her initial labials which could sometimes benefit from a bit more energy.
Not all virtuoso pianists can accompany sensitively, but Marc-André Hamelin is superb – technically impeccable and with a wide tonal range. Poulenc’s Deux poèmes de Louis Aragon show both artists at their best: deeply moving in ‘C’, wild and populist in ‘Fêtes galantes’, where they take up the composer’s challenge of ‘at least’ crotchet=152 by going even faster. More please! Roger Nichols