Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne, Vol. 2; Triptyque; Chants de France – selection

COMPOSERS: Canteloube
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Canteloube
WORKS: Chants d’Auvergne, Vol. 2; Triptyque; Chants de France – selection
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens (soprano); Orchestre National de Lille-Région Nord, Pas-de Calais/Serge Baudo
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570338
Deliciously poised between folksong melodies and art-song orchestrations, the Chants d’Auvergne have been a favourite ever since Netania Davrath recorded the first complete set in 1963. For over three decades Victoria de los Angeles’s recordings have held classic status, and releases by Frederica von Stade and Dawn Upshaw have won many admirers.

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In her second volume, including ‘Chut, chut’ and ‘Lo Fiolairé’, Véronique Gens does more than confirm her credentials. She persuades these ears that at least four of the lesser-known Chants de France deserve as wide a circulation, especially the one tune everybody knows (‘Auprès de ma blonde, c’est si bon, si bon, si bon’) which gets a typical Canteloube setting rooted in pedals and making sly allusions, for instance to the peals of Notre-Dame. She can’t quite do the same for the Triptyque, though these rather evenly paced odes to summer, the moon and daybreak have a fetching suppleness that recalls Ravel’s ‘Asïe’.

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The voice is bright, forward, notably clear in diction and lightly responsive to nuance, backed by prominent woodwind and lean strings. It was Los Angeles who made the Chants d’Auvergne a byword for languid indulgence. I’ve always preferred Davrath, at ease with the dialect, but with that set hard to find, Gens is the choice for those who find opulence overbearing in such frisky material. Robert Maycock