COMPOSERS: Arne; Debussy; Duparc; Faure; Lully; Obradors; Ovalle; Schubert; R Strauss
ALBUM TITLE: L’art de Géarad Souzay Vol. 2
WORKS: Works by Arne, Debussy, Duparc, Lully, Ovalle, Obradors, Fauré, Schubert and R Strauss
PERFORMER: Gérard Souzay (baritone), Dalton Baldwin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VAI 4360 (NTSC system; mono sound; 4:3 picture ratio)
The Frenchman Gérard Souzay (1918-2004) was undoubtedly one of the greatest baritones of the post-war period, pupil and successor to the great Pierre Bernac, friend of Poulenc, as well as Claire Croiza, Lotte Lehmann and other luminaries. Throughout his career he remained somewhat overshadowed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Nevertheless, many preferred Souzay in Lieder especially, finding his style less mannered and more fluent. An unfair comparison, perhaps, given Fischer-Dieskau’s wider repertoire; Souzay sang relatively little opera, for example, and was an amiable rather than charismatic actor. Nevertheless, as these Canadian TV programmes show, there was some truth in it. Souzay’s voice was smaller, but rich and smoothly produced, with an integral legato, always favouring the flow of the vocal lines rather than indulging in the German baritone’s minute word-pointing – a style perfect for the predominantly French songs in these recitals. Yet as he demonstrates in an Orford Festival recital-cum-master class, Souzay had just as much concern for fine shades of expression, and a superb command of German, making him no less impressive in Schubert and Strauss. He can be histrionic too, as in Ibert’s Don Quichotte songs, not afraid of the occasional dramatic gesture, but with a natural, unforced ardour. Singing excellent English in Arne’s ‘Where the Bee Sucks’, in the daft ‘Stuttering Lovers’ he even makes a courageous stab at Scots! Only Lully, then rare, finds him stylistically unsure. Dalton Baldwin, his habitual accompanist, contributes to the sense of naturalness and ease. For TV recordings of this vintage the quality is excellent, making this recommendable to anyone who loves fine singing.
Michael Scott Rohan