On that proverbial desert island, one would indubitably wish to have at least one record by Ninon Vallin, and what more suitable to choose than her account of that rapturous Chabrier song, L'ile heureuse, happily included in this long desired reissue. It shows her warm, absolutely steady voice and her wonderful identification with what she is singing at its very best. Even more important, perhaps, is her totally idiomatic style. Anyone listening to this, or to her performances of Faure, Duparc, Hahn and Chausson on this set, would know that some of us are right in believing that this represents a lost art, an art arising from an unemphatic yet natural declamation of the text and an even, warm yet light line. It is noticeable how often Vallin's speeds, and those of her lesser but still important contemporaries, are faster than those adopted today. The music is allowed to make its own points through clear enunciation and easy legato, never underlined. Yet there is more to Vallin even than that, a sensuousness and nostalgia in the voice that made her so ideally fitted to interpreting melodies.
Yet she could alter her tone to something quite different for the varying needs of her large repertory. Her records of the solos from Falla's L'amor brujo and Seven Popular Spanish Songs show how she could darken, almost coarsen it to their more earthy needs, while never compromising the essentials of good singing. Then, in opera, she could widen her range to encompass the sorrows of Manon and Mignon, or, as in her lovely and early 1914 Pathe of Mimi's First Act solo, suggest the smile of the coquettish lover, and what a pure and lovely voice Vallin had in her youth! An Achilles heel; she was loth to sing piano and in so long a survey as this one sometimes looks for more light and shade than is forthcoming.
With any artist who made so many records as she did in her extended career, from the early Pathe hill-and-dales of the First World War to a 1955 LP, one is bound to have a quibble or two about what has been included what has been left out. I could well have done without Nin's boring songs, perhaps even the Granados, and had instead more opera. The operatic items are squeezed on to the last side, which means there is only one Manon example—the ''Adieu'', then the Odeon rather than the superior Pathe version—and none of her wonderful duets from this opera. Nor is there a note of her Charlotte. Some of these might have been chosen in preference to her less than ideal ''Depuis le jour'' (Louise) and the untypical solo from Wolf-Ferrari's Il segreto di Susanna. On the song front, two of her best Faure readings, Apres un reve and Au bord de l'eau are excluded, and the lesser of her two versions of Duparc's Chanson triste picked—the Pathe with piano is preferable to the Odeon with orchestra included here. But what I seem to be saying is that we should have had three rather than just two records for a literally irreplaceable artist but I hear an imminent References issue will put this to rights.
As it is, l am certain that anyone turning to her singing for the first time will ask why they have had to wait so long to hear her cultivated, eloquent art. The sleeve-notewriter is strong on the soprano's career, very weak on an assessment of her virtues. A pity.'