Lalo: Complete songs

'The arrival of a fine mélodie singer is always a cause of celebration'

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Edouard Lalo
LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: Lalo
WORKS: Complete songs
PERFORMER: Tassis Christoyannis (baritone), Jeff Cohen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AP 110

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The arrival of a fine mélodie singer is always a cause of celebration. Tassis Christoyannis has a baritone voice that moves smoothly from the most elegant, caressing pianissimo, at times reminiscent of Gérard Souzay, to a commanding fortissimo. In addition, his words are the clearest I’ve heard in this repertory for a very long time, and he uses them with great intelligence, even varying the exact placing of consonants in a way that somehow went out of fashion after World War II. He is matched all the way by Jeff Cohen, who plays with commendably light pedalling and impeccable technique: his bird noises in La chanson de l’alouette are utterly delightful.

I would happily have ended my review there, but sadly many of the tempos are a long way below the metronome marks (in the case of Chant Breton, lower than half what Lalo asks for). This sentimentalises the music, ruining the freshness and directness which are part of the appeal of these songs, largely ignored by singers of today. Some of the English translations are also seriously misleading, and Aubade of 1876 is misplaced in the otherwise chronological order. But at least, after the unduly repetitive strophic songs of the first disc, the second contains some really splendid music, ranging from the wildness of A celle qui part to the sensuousness of L’esclave and Souvenir, both written for Lalo’s wife Julie, a much admired contralto.

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Roger Nichols