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COMPOSERS: Gounod/Lalo/Saint-Sa‘ns
WORKS: Vivent les vacances!: mélodies
PERFORMER: Les Demoiselles de…
Vocal duets are an easily overlooked genre. Yes, there are countless marvellous duets in operas and oratorios, but, of those conceived as self-contained entities, precious few would be counted among the crown jewels of the Western musical tradition. There are plenty of little gems to be found, nonetheless, especially among the Parisian salon repertoire that spawned a surge of interest in mélodies for two voices during the latter half of the 19th century.


Sophie Marin-Degor and Claire Brua, known collectively with pianist Serge Cyferstein as Les Demoiselles de…, take us for a leisurely waft through some utterly delectable moments of Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Lalo. Their enthusiasm for the task is tangible, from the crystalline entreaties of the opening ‘Par une belle nuit’, to the sublime prayer of ‘D’un coeur qui t’aime’, enjoying en route the coquettish intertwinings of Saint-Saëns’s ‘Viens’. Love and loss are to the fore throughout, but, as the collection’s title, Vivent les vacances!, suggests, the angst of these trysts is relatively carefree. Cyferstein periodically takes this spirit too far, sounding in Gounod’s ‘Mignon’ like an awkward teenager on a first date. If occasional lapses in intonation remove a little lustre from the voices, the whole remains thoroughly engaging. Christopher Dingle