Poulenc: Mélodies

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Mélodies
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano)Pascal Rogé (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 458 859-2
Felicity Lott’s well-known affinity with French song receives its latest demonstration on this attractive disc. Like the one she made four years ago, for Forlane, Decca’s offers a spread of items from across the composer’s long career. From such a programme, one derives a heartening impression of the vitality and unexpected strength of Poulenc’s output: his actual musical language, that bittersweet decoction of Gounod, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky and popular song may not have developed much over the years, but his use of it seems more potent and finely gauged than ever.

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Lott’s long-breathed phrases, her charm, wit, vivacity and sense of French chic are as impressive as ever, as is her use of the language – in the many difficult patter-songs her touch never falters. She can be tender and funny: in songs about childhood she is, admirably, both. All she lacks is the diamond-bright matter-of-factness of Denise Duval, for whom Poulenc wrote so much of his later music, and the sweetness and simplicity of Elly Ameling, whose song recordings from the Seventies set a high standard. Occasionally the Lott soprano sounds a touch past its prime, with soft high notes thin and fluttery and low register dry and effortful. Rogé, another proven Poulenc performer, tends to clatter in fast-flowing figuration; Forlane’s recording and its pianist, Graham Johnson, seemed to find a more natural balance with the singing voice. Max Loppert