“The temperature rose with the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, a superb interpreter of French music who gave one of the most intense accounts imaginable of Ravel's Shéhérazade. Few singers sound quite so involved here … Graham spun seamless phrases with Arabian Nights-like enchantment. Her warm tone was matched by an atmospheric accompaniment from the orchestra to voluptuous effect. In Le livre de Baudelaire, John Adams' arrangements of four Debussy songs, Graham phrased with caressing lightness.” (**** The Times)
“Only a brave, or foolhardy, composer sets about reorchestrating Debussy.
Yet that's what John Adams has done, in 'Le jet d'eau', the third of Debussy's Cinqpoèmes de Charles Baudelaire, the first four of which Adams has chosen to score for a modern orchestra. He's done an effective job, and if it makes the songs sound more boisterous, less mysterious than in the usual version for voice and piano, he's probably doing his soloist a big favour. By common consent, these are the most difficult of all Debussy's early songs. Susan Graham seems totally in command, her diminuendo on the words 'Et le charme des soirs' is tender, and is echoed a few bars later by Adams providing a nostalgic woodwind for the reference to those firelit evenings, 'par l'audeur du charbon'.
There's a lovely photograph, taken in 1893, the year of Poème de l'amour et de la mer. It shows Debussy, at Chausson's house, playing the piano. Both composers are in white shirts, surrounded by a peaceful group of family and friends, all in summer clothes, the windows openThis is the sort of mood this disc evokes.
Yan Pascal Tortelier and Susan Graham give Chausson's work a well-nigh perfect performance, capturing the sense of quiet regret at the memory of springtime love that has faded, and of a story that is never quite told.
As for Ravel's Shéhérazade, like nearly all mezzo-sopranos, Graham is stretched to the limits of her resources by the big climactic phrases in 'Asie'. She sings a hushed, beautiful 'La flûte enchantée' and a rather too sad 'L'indifférent', but it's all done with a fine line, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing Ravel's music with a good deal of passion.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010