WORKS: La chasse du Prince Arthur; Quatre odelettes; La cloche des morts; Quatre poèmes; Soir sur les chaumes
PERFORMER: Cécile Perrin (soprano), Vincent Le Texier (baritone); Luxembourg PO/ Emmanuel Krivine
CATALOGUE NO: 1C 1073
Guy Ropartz, the long-lived Breton pupil of César Franck, was a prolific composer, yet we hear very little of his work, and it’s a pleasure to make the acquaintance of these songs and tone poems. Michel Fleury’s informative booklet notes testify to Ropartz’s susceptibility to literary inspiration. If the early genre picture La cloche des morts (1887), depicting a farmer’s funeral procession, is somewhat conventional, and the 1899 song cycle Quatre poèmes (enterprisingly, settings of Heine) is too mechanically unified by a ubiquitous, bell-like four-note motif, the later works bespeak a refined sensibility with a pronounced talent for atmosphere.
The symphonic poem La chasse du Prince Arthur (1912), emerging out of Celtic mists into vigorous life, and the nature-meditation Soir sur les chaumes (1913) are at least minor classics of musical impressionism – certainly La chasse, which might be considered a Breton equivalent of Bax’s Tintagel, deserves wider currency than it currently enjoys. The poised, marmoreal Odelettes, setting of poems of Henri Régnier, have an Attic grace and simplicity.
Cécile Perrin brings a fresh-voiced charm to these songs, but Vincent Le Texier sounds at times uncertain and his voice unduly taxed in the Heine cycle. Emmanuel Krivine directs sympathetic and idiomatic performances. All in all an enterprising and enjoyable release. Calum MacDonald