COMPOSERS: Chabrier; Chausson; Faure; Hahn; Poulenc
ALBUM TITLE: Chabrier • Chausson • Fauré • Hahn • Poulenc
WORKS: Chansons Françaises by Poulenc, Hahn, Chausson, Chabrier, Fauré,
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson (soprano), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0017582BC
Don’t be misled by the title! By far the majority of the songs here are not chansons, but mélodies. That’s to say, they deal with profound emotions, and both Lynne Dawson and Julius Drake perform them as such. No whiff, I’m glad to say, of condescending treatment as though of the Lied’s little sister. At the same time the songs that are truly chansons, such as Chabrier’s ‘Villanelle des petits canards’ and Poulenc’s ‘Nous voulons une petite soeur’, are thrown off with delightful wit and charm. At the heart of the mélodie lie the words, and not only is Lynne Dawson’s French immaculate, she has obviously thought about every phrase. Vowels and consonants are subtly weighted and tailored in the true French manner and she has the technique to carry long phrases without tiring or losing colour: in Chabrier’s ‘L’île heureuse’, when she sings ‘aux cieux légers’, the sky is indeed light, and anxiety-free. Julius Drake gives firm, stylish support and, when necessary, lets us see the bones beneath the beguiling Gallic skin. The choice of songs is excellent, with not a single dud (and Fauré’s ‘Le secret’ sung in the original D flat major – yes!). Altogether this is one of the best discs of French song I’ve heard in a very long time.