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August Editor’s Choices

RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR

BEETHOVEN Symphony No 6 STUCKY Silent Spring Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Manfred Honeck

Reference Recordings Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh players offer a fascinating Pastoral and thoughtprovoking pairing, in first-class sound.

LISZT Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2. Piano Sonata Alexander Ullman pf BBC Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Litton

Rubicon Alexander Ullman’s strong desire to present Lizst’s music as the extraordinary art it is, is evident throughout this wonderful album.

BEETHOVEN Two Cello Sonatas, Op 102. Bagatelles Roel Dieltiens vc Andreas Staier fp Harmonia Mundi

A glorious recording that reminds us of the many different styles and sound worlds period performance can delight us with, from two really excellent interpreters.

HOLMBOE String Quartets, Vol 2 Nightingale Quartet Dacapo The brilliant Nightingale Quartet continue their exploration and advocacy of Holmboe’s music with this beautifully performed programme, including his final thoughts on the medium.

HAHN ‘Poèmes & Valses’ Pavel Kolesnikov pf Hyperion A poetic survey of Hahn miniatures from pianist Pavel Kolesnikov which, writes Michelle Assay, brings us ‘closer to the core of these pieces than any other available recording’.

‘THIS IS AMERICA’ Johnny Gandelsman vn In a Circle Twenty four new works by American and US‑based composers –

21 of them commissioned for the project – rich in diversity but united by interpretative beauty and belief from violinist Johnny Gandelsman.

RAVEL ‘Cantates pour le Prix de Rome’ Sols; Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire / Pascal Rophé BIS

The judges may not have crowned these early Ravel works with the Prix de Rome, but now, thanks to these superb soloists and performances, we can make up own minds!

‘A MEDITATION’ The Sixteen / Harry Christophers Coro A programme of music old and new built around the Meditations of John Henry Newman, and performed with customary power and precision by the ever-impressive Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.

‘OH, MA BELLE BRUNETTE’ Reinoud Van Mechelen ten A Nocte Temporis Alpha Baroque pastoral charm from Reinoud Van Mechelen, whose tenor voice offers listeners both grace and intimacy as we escape into a wonderful world of song.

late repertoire. In a booklet note, they claim there is no valid reason why one singer cannot perform songs written for a different voice and explain how they adopted new transpositions that respect the original key sequences in some of Fauré’s cycles. The booklet also features an excellent essay by Nicolas Southon charting the history of the mélodie, and Fauré’s choice of texts during the different periods of their composition and how his stylistic world developed. Aparté’s presentation is excellent, with full texts and translations.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Dubois in our Opera section several times: Iopas on John Nelson’s Gramophone Awards Recording of the Year Les Troyens (Erato, 12/17); an outstanding Nadir in The Pearl Fishers (Pentatone, 8/18 – Recording of the Month); and a charming Fortunio at the Opéra-Comique (Naxos, 12/20). He has an instantly recognisable voice – very light, almost an haute-contre, honeyed, with a slight flutter that warms his tone and gives a gentle sense of vulnerability. Dubois’s diction is superb. He uses a lot of head voice here and is miked very closely, so there is a real sense of intimacy that comes through the speakers, as if he and Raës are there in your living room giving a salon performance. With so many songs about moonlight, it makes for splendid late-night listening.

Raës is every inch the poet at the piano, always sensitive to the text. His pacing is often more urgent than Baldwin’s, such as the flowing tempo taken for ‘Dans les ruines d’une abbaye’. The piano sound is clear, if a little more distant than Dubois in the balance.

There are very few tenor recordings of Fauré mélodies available, but I listened to Yann Beuron’s recording with Billy Eidi (Timpani) for comparisons. As charming as Beuron is, Dubois’s lighter tenor and agility pay off in numbers such as ‘Mandoline’ or the Madrigal from Shylock. Favourites such as ‘Après un rêve’ and ‘Chanson d’amour’ stand up well to any competition on disc – although I will always reserve a special place in my heart for the divine Sabine Devieilhe (Erato, A/20) – and the third verse of ‘Clair de lune’ is aural balm.

Of the song-cycles, La bonne chanson is particularly mellifluous, with ‘Puisque l’aube grandi’ sounding especially yearning, and there’s a fine sense of emotion in L’horizon chimérique, Fauré’s final cycle, composed in the autumn of 1921. Dubois is beguiling in the latter’s third song, ‘Diane, Séléné’, where he makes time stand still in the opening phrases of the second verse.

But what of something like La chanson d’Ève, composed for female voice? In this transposition it sits well for his voice, even though his longer-held high notes sung in such a light head voice have the danger of slipping into crooning in songs such as ‘Crépuscule’. But I find it’s always applied tastefully – indeed, there’s never anything untasteful about a Dubois performance. He is a stylish, cultured performer and is as fine an advocate for Fauré’s mélodies as any of the best. Recommended for those who love indulging in French song at its finest.

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