Poulenc: Les banalités; Les chansons villageoises; Les fiançailles pour rire; La travail du peintre

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Les banalités; Les chansons villageoises; Les fiançailles pour rire; La travail du peintre
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto)Inger Södergren (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63137 2
Four of Poulenc’s more important cycles are presented here, together with nine other songs, all representing his artistry at its most fastidious, subtle and wide-ranging. In addition, a native French artist with a particularly fine contralto sings them. All should be well. But the sheer power of Nathalie Stutzmann’s instrument, with its occasional hard edge, is inclined to swamp the texts when deployed with insufficient variation. Her singing lacks intimacy, and that savouring of the momentary detail, that French song in particular seems to require. Overall these are generalised interpretations, with not enough attention to local detail.

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Her accompanist Inger Södergren is apt to be heavy-handed, too. Her playing lacks delicacy of feeling, even a certain Parisian vivacity. The overall effect (a locus classicus is ‘Voyage à Paris’ from Les banalités) can be overbearing. Even the charm of the valse-chantée ‘Les chemins de l’amour’ has a certain self-consciousness to it. And neither performer is flattered by the recording, whose cramped and over-resonant acoustic brings an unfortunate harshness to the sound. The piano tone in particular registers as muddy and recessed. George Hall