Schumann • Duparc • Debussy • Hahn • Poulenc

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COMPOSERS: Schumann; Duparc; Debussy; Hahn; Poulenc
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Thoughts Observed
WORKS: Songs by Schumann, Duparc, Debussy, Hahn and Poulenc
PERFORMER: Yaniv d’Or (countertenor), Dan Deutsch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573780

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The British-Israeli Yaniv d’Or moves into a different repertory for his recital disc, and one that countertenors rarely explore: the music of 19th- and 20th-century French and German composers, some of whom will probably never have encountered a voice of his type. In theory, there’s no reason for the voice and the music to be held apart, though in practice the result frequently proves less than ideal. In the great Schumann cycle Dichterliebe, d’Or’s musicianship is apparent but so is a limited range of dynamics and colour. Consonants need clearer articulation and vowels are occasionally unsteady, while one or two phrases feel short on breath. 

Even so, he can be an intelligent interpreter. ‘Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen’ goes well from every point of view, and he injects colour into ‘Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet’; but there’s a worrying falling-off in tone quality at either end of his range (he sings the cycle, apparently, in bass keys, one octave up). 

He’s better suited to the more sensuous tone of Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage and the four Debussy settings, though text sometimes needs more attention both as sound and as meaning. Most successful are the Poulenc items, especially the early cycle Le Bestiaire – heard in the composer’s own arrangement of the original for voice and ensemble – to which d’Or brings the appropriate element of boulevardier wit, and the simple eloquence of his interpretation of the Charles d’Orléans text, ‘Priez pour paix’. Throughout, Dan Deutsch’s considered accompaniments are finely judged.

George Hall

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