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Un Frisson Français - A century of French song
Undoubtedly ONYX’s highlight of the year is the first recital disc for 5 years by the great American mezzo Susan Graham. Beloved by audiences the world over, this outstanding recording is sure to be much in demand worldwide.
The unique programme provides a celebration of French song in an unusual way – instead of groups of songs by several composers Susan has opted for a single song by 22 different composers from Bizet to Poulenc. This is the programme she and Malcolm Martineau her regular accompanist took on tour in the USA and Europe in 2007/2008. Reviews were unanimous “confirms Susan Graham as the ideal package she is” (Music Web) “resistance is futile” (New York Times); superb, exquisite (Chicago Tribune)
Susan Graham is particularly at home in French repertoire, one of the few non-French singers recognised by the French themselves when they made her a Commandeur dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Susan refutes the idea that all French vocal music sounds the same: "This programme has everything: loud, soft, high, low, fast, slow, romantic, acidic."
Includes some surprises- Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre for example, known by everyone as a orchestral showpiece but in fact first written as a song, but hardly ever performed as such; and some favourites such as Hahn’s À Chloris and Canteloube’s Brezairola, but far more discoveries such as the gorgeous Psyché by Paladilhe and Bachelet’s ecstatic Chère Nuit.
“With Susan Graham in radiant form and Malcolm Martineau not just an accompanist but an active partner in the project, "Un frisson français" offers a unique survey of French mélodie from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th: 22 songs… one composer. A rich collection in excellent sound: no one is likely to be disappointed.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2008
“The familiar here appears in unusual contexts and alongside a scattering of rarities. The performers are at one in their fluency, delicate rubato and avoidance of Anglo-Saxon archness, within an acoustic that combines intimacy and atmosphere.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2008 *****
“With Susan Graham in radiant form and Malcolm Martineau not just an accompanist but an active partner in the project, 'Un frisson français' offers a unique survey of French mélodie from the mid–19th century to the mid–20th: 22 songs…one per composer.
Martineau describes the plan as a 'tasting menu', starting with Gounod, to whom he ascribes the launching of the genre of French mélodie. Even Ravel said that Gounod was 'the true founder of the mélodie in France' and his song 'Au rossignol' ('To the Nightingale') is included in the first of five sections – 'founding fathers', including Bizet, Franck, Lalo and Saint–Saëns. It is fascinating to hear the original version with piano of 'Danse macabre', Graham marvellously biting.
Martineau describes the sequence as 'loosely chronological', and one beauty of the scheme is that rare and forgotten composers are included, such as Paladilhe and Bachelet who are represented in late–Romantic mélodies with night and nature dominating themes. The third group – including Ravel and Debussy – takes us into the 20th century. Especially fascinating is André Caplet's setting of 'Le corbeau et le renard' ('The Crow and the Fox') with elaborate piano accompaniment.
Only rare songs are chosen for each composer and perhaps Martineau chose some of them for the colourful accompaniments, as in Chausson's fluttering accompaniment for his picture of the butterfly in 'Le papillon'. The fourth section has childhood as a common theme and the climactic section has only one song, much the longest, Poulenc's 'La dame de Monte-Carlo', to words by Jean Cocteau. It is like an encapsulated version of the operatic monodrama La voix humaine with the singer on the verge of a breakdown.
A rich collection in excellent sound: no one is likely to be disappointed.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Mélodies: Stéphane Degout & Hélène Lucas
New Naïve signing baritone Stéphane Degout has already featured as soloist with the internationally renowned choral group Accentus on Brahms' German Requiem and Fauré's Requiem. The programme on his solo debut CD is a selection of mélodies by various French composers, Debussy, Ravel, Duparc, Saint-Saëns, Chabrier, and Reynaldo Hahn. Stéphane Degout first met pianist Hélène Lucas when he entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon in 1995. She soon detected the young singer’s qualities and introduced him to the world of the mélodie and the lieder, and Stéphane gave his first recitals of this repertoire with Hélène Lucas as accompanist. After his acclaimed debut as Papageno at the Festival of Aix-en-Provence, the international operatic world opened its doors to him and kept him away from the lied and the mélodie for a while, but he has now returned to his roots.
Next to the great names of the French mélodie, Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel, Gounod, Bizet, Chabrier and Saint-Saëns appear less often in the singer’s repertoire. Among the latter’s many songs the pieces featured here are splendid examples of subtle orientalism. The less numerous mélodies of Chabrier introduce a French approach to Wagnerism with highly elaborate piano parts and extremely sensual vocal lines. The third of the somewhat neglected mélodistes represented in this programme is Reynaldo Hahn. His vocal works are frequently viewed as relatively lightweight, but the two songs featured here Trois jours de vendanges, and Cimetière de campagne are full of depth and melancholy.
“[there's] no mistaking the quality of his sensual, yet gritty voice, or of his artistry...Degout has an exceptional, if unobtrusive way of projecting a text, and you're conscious – as in the various settings of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Gautier – of listening to great poetry as well as great music...There's wonderfully fluid playing from his accompanist Hélène Lucas, too.” The Guardian, 10th February 2011 *****
“The voice - a natural for Pelléas, one would think - responds rapturously to Debussy and Verlaine's submarine wonders” Gramophone Magazine, April 2011
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Susan Graham - French Songs
Recorded at Verbier Festival, July 2009
This series of TV programmes presents the very best of the 16th Verbier Festival with worldwide renowned artists such as Susan Graham, Martha Argerich, Yuri Temirkanov, Stephen Kovacevich, and Philippe Jaroussky.
Together with Malcolm Martineau on the piano, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham features a fascinating compilation of well-known French composers.
Both have also toured with the program - comprising nearly two dozen songs by as many composers - to great acclaim. The recital Graham and Martineau gave this past summer at the Verbier Festival in French-speaking Switzerland brought down the house.
Being Musical America’s 2004 Vocalist of the year, Graham is well-known as an expert in French melodies. The genre is known as a very tricky one, but she presents the songs with a fascinating jewel-like clarity and gleaming tone. Martineau is the perfect counter-part who adds some finely judged French seasoning.
Picture format DVD: NTSC 16:9
Sounds formats DVD: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Region code: 0
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 60 min
“An hour of pure delight...Graham is utterly at home in this repertoire an performs it with élan...Martineau is the perfect partner throughout, perfectly jusging depth of tone, moving as one with Graham and displaying the same level of control...with a gentle smile, Hahn's sublime 'À Chloris' surpasses all that has come before.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2010 *****
BBC Music Magazine
DVD Choice - December 2010
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Chabrier: Complete Songs
Agnès Mellon (soprano) Franck Leguérinel (baritone) Francoise Tillard (piano) Francois Charruyer (bassoon)
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Erik Satie - Socrate
and other French song cycles
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Chanson pour Jeanne
L'Invitation au voyage
La Vague et la Cloche
Le Manoir de Rosemonde
La Vie antérieure
Chanson du pêcheur Op. 4 No. 1
Poème d'un jour Op. 21
Les berceaux, Op. 23 No. 1
Le secret Op. 23 No. 3
Aurore, Op. 39 No. 1
Fleur jetée, Op. 39 No. 2
La rose Op. 51 No. 4
Madrigal Op. 35
Cinq Melodies 'de Venise', Op. 58
La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61
Le parfum impérissable Op. 76 No. 1
Arpège, Op. 76 No. 2 (Samain)
Prison, Op. 83 No. 1
Soir Op. 83 No. 2
Dans la forêt de septembre Op. 85 No. 1
La fleur qui va sur l'eau Op. 85 No. 2
Le don silencieux Op. 92
La chanson d'Ève, Op. 95
Le jardin clos Op. 106
L'horizon chimérique, Op. 118
Poèmes de la Pléiade
La Travail du peintre
La Fraîcheur et le feu
Airs chanté No. 4
La grenouillère, Op. 5
Metamorphoses : Reine des mouettes
Priez pour paix
Cinq mélodies populaires grecques
Trois chansons madécasses
Deux mélodies hébraïques
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Les grands vents venus d'outre-mer
Le Jardin Mouillé
Le Bachelier de Salamanque
“Souzay should...rank as one of the most elegant and sensitive song interpreters on record, as this collection of music by Fauré, Ravel, Poulenc and Duparc (among others) demonstrates. Poulenc’s Priez pour paix and Hahn’s L’Heure exquise show him at his exquisite best.” Sunday Telegraph, 4th July 2010 *****
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