Le Tombeau de Ronsard
The 400th anniversary last year of the death of Ronsard, the sixteenth-century poet who conceived many of his creations expressly for singing, sparked off the idea for this record, which consists of solo settings of his poems by 16 composers. (Very many more have been attracted by them, including Wagner, Frank Martin, Milhaud and Sir Lennox Berkeley.) The best known in this collection is Ravel's Ronsard a son ame, whose archaic approach contrasts strongly with, for example, Saint-Saens's patter-song, Bizet's jogtrot 6/8 and Honegger's wistfully lyrical Chanson; but several other styles are also presented (as are three composers almost totally unheard-of here—about whom no information is vouchsafed). There are three very different settings of Rossignol, mon mignon and two of
Jacques Herbillon has a very French type of light baritone—not always very happy on high Es (as in the Gabus and Emmanuel songs) although he produces an excellent F in the bizet—and exemplary clarity of enunciation, as he demonstrates most vividly in the Saint-Saens: he is very ably accompanied by Jeffrey Grice and coolly and closely recorded. In three songs (though not those so indicated on the label and sleeve!) the singer is joined by Luc Urbain, who in two Roussel items (for voice and flute only) appears to be playing an alto flute rather than the normal instrument, since it descends as far as the low G. These are but two of the criticisms to be levelled against the conspicuously slipshod presentation, which in addition mis-spells the name of the composers, omits the texts of two of the songs entirely and prints the others with a number of errors. I observe that this record was awarded a price by the Academie du disque francais, which makes clear the amount of importance it attaches to such matters as mere accuracy.'