Milhaud: Poèmes juifs; Les soirées de Pétrograd; Chansons bas; Catalogue de fleurs

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Milhaud
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Poèmes juifs; Les soirées de Pétrograd; Chansons bas; Catalogue de fleurs
PERFORMER: Györgyi Dombrádi (mezzo-soprano)Lambert Bumiller (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 408-2
Darius Milhaud has been a victim of his own fecundity. How does one begin to sort out the genuinely worthwhile from such a vast and uneven output? There are 265 songs alone.

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This selection, however, includes some clear winners: the catchy South American rhythms of the Trois chansons de négresse; the Chansons bas – brilliantly sketched vignettes of working-class Parisians; the bright and shiny miniatures of the Catalogue de fleurs, settings of a pretend gardener’s catalogue; the expressive, quietly eloquent Poèmes juifs (Milhaud was himself Jewish), and the witty yet disturbing snapshots of pre-Soviet Russia in the Soirées de Pétrograd of 1919. All these are fine examples of the French mélodie, even if elsewhere on the disc Milhaud’s facility can descend into the mere placing of notes competently on paper.

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The recorded sound is enclosed, favouring the piano over the voice. Lambert Bumiller offers neat, precise accompaniments to Györgyi Dombrádi’s mezzo. Her French is capable, but she needs more in the way of imaginative characterisation to impress in these clever, varied and often idiosyncratic songs. George Hall