Chanson d'avril: French Chansons and Melodies
The American soprano Nicole Cabell’s recording career has been a curious one. After winning the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2005, she went on to make her prize-winning debut disc, ‘Soprano’ (Decca, 5/07), which – though excellent – was more showcase than recital. Five years later a much quieter release followed in ‘Silver Rain’ (Blue Griffin, 1/13), a disc of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon. Now she returns with perhaps her most thoughtful programme to date.
‘Chanson d’avril’ capitalises on Cabell’s flair for French repertoire, exploring a selection of chansons and mélodies by Bizet, Duparc, Liszt and Ravel. Ideas of the exotic recur throughout, whether in Bizet’s ‘Hôtesse arabe’ or Ravel’s Shéhérazade, evocatively drawn by Cabell’s new depth and range of tone. What was once a supple lyric voice is now heading towards the more muscular lirico-spinto territory and it’s a shift exploited fully – at times a little too fully – here.
The two Ravel works – Shéhérazade and Cinq mélodies populaires grecques – are outstanding, finding a range of colour lacking elsewhere. Cabell moves from bell-like sonorities in ‘L’indifférent’ to a muted, hazy loveliness for ‘Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisque’, before ending the cycle with a throwaway shrug of vocal sophistication in ‘Tout gai’, efficiently supported by Craig Terry at the piano.
Both the Liszt and Duparc songs however suffer from a little too much force, too much weight in the sound, sacrificing the smaller details of textual nuance – so crucial in the Duparc, especially – for heft. Diction lacks definition, getting all but swept away by a very active vibrato.
Cabell’s instrument is only improving and gaining personality, while her musical choices are becoming more creative. ‘Chanson d’avril’ is not her most polished album but it is surely a step towards something more interesting than her easy, early polish.