Mélodies françaises

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Mélodies françaises

  • Sérénade
  • Viens! Les gazons sont verts!
  • (L') Absent
  • Ouvre ton coeur (La marguerite a fermé)
  • Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe
  • Chanson pour Jeanne
  • (L')île heureuse
  • Chanson perpétuelle
  • (7) Mélodies, No. 3, Les papillons (wds. Gautier)
  • (7) Mélodies, No. 7, Le colibri (wds. Leconte de Lisle)
  • (La) Crépuscule
  • (Les) Erinnyes, Tristesse du soir (mélodie-élégie)
  • (L')Invitation au voyage
  • Chanson triste
  • Extase
  • (Les) Filles de Cadix
  • Rêverie
  • (Le) Rossignol des lilas
  • Si mes vers avaient des ailes
  • Quand je fus pris au pavillon
  • Chère nuit
  • Plaisir d'amour

This is like a day that starts so freshly (albeit with serenade rather than aubade) that you feel it must be full of promise. Unlike days that begin well and turn sultry, this keeps its spring-like clarity, neither hot nor cold, and before you know it evening falls; “a perfect day” you might say, casually, going indoors, but it didn’t bring quite what the heart desired.
‘Heart’, I’m afraid, is what is in question, and it is not an easy matter for critical discussion. Let us go back to the beginning. There is Gounod’s Serenade (“Quand tu chantes”) lilting deliciously, the upward arpeggios neat and graceful, followed by a sprightly invitation to get out of bed and join the singer (“Viens! les gazons sont verts!”), barefoot, on the lawn. If asked as sweetly as this one might almost oblige. Then (still with Gounod) we have L’absent involving a change of mood, now tenderly reminiscent but still mild in its emotional range. Bizet comes with a click of the castanets and a sinuous melisma sighed by an Arab hostess: and perhaps at this point the non-event of an expected tingle warns that this is not to be a day of rich development. Chabrier’s L’ile heureuse has me wishing that I could be hearing Hugues Cuenod. Then Chanson perpetuelle recalls Dame Maggie Teyte.
Now Dame Maggie was no softie: there was bitterness in her system and she could swear like a trooper. Her vocal method was based on discipline and her tone was pure, steady and cool. Yet her Chanson perpetuelle, when brought out for comparison, gave me goose-pimples, and in Duparc’s Extase I could have wept. It is partly a way with words (even the word ‘ciel’ at the very start of the Chausson is sung evocatively); partly of tempo (7'47'' to Hendricks’s 6'54'', 4'34'' to 2'59'' in Duparc); more of style (the portamento on “desole” makes all the difference). Yet this hardly explains. All I can do is report reactions: Hendricks, delightful as she is, elicited no frisson and certainly no moisture of the eye. She is, however, a singer of considerable technical resource. Hers is not a powerful voice, but she grades with such skill that everything is heard in perspective (the ‘building’ of verses in Bizet’s Adieux is a good example). The pianist, Michel Dalberto, brings an appropriately bright touch, excellent for instance in the crisp introduction to Delibes’s “Les filles de Cadix”.
The programme itself gives pleasure from first to last, and includes a juicy morsel, rarely encountered now but sung in days of yore by Claudia Muzio, Alfred Bachelet’s Chere nuit, written (1897), I would guess, with a mind aswim, for the first half at any rate, with Strauss’s Morgen (1894).'

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