Paul Derenne - Rare French Songs

Author: 
Patrick O'Connor

Paul Derenne - Rare French Songs

  • (Le) Colibri
  • (3) Chants de la jungle, Berceuse phoque
  • (3) Fables de la Fontaine, La cigale et la fourmi
  • (3) Fables de la Fontaine, L'oiseau blessé d'une flèche
  • (La) Cigale et la fourmi
  • (La) Poule aux oeufs durs
  • (La) Chanson du bon sommeil d'automne
  • (Le) Serpent
  • (Le) Bestiaire
  • (Le) Corbeau et la renard
  • (2) Sonnets, Quand reverrai-je hélas (wds. Du Bellay)
  • Sonnet sur la mort de son fils
  • (Le) Jour où la mort viendra frapper à ta port
  • Jeux rustiques
  • (L') Adolescence clémentine
  • En Arles
  • Cartes postales
  • Virginie Déjazet, Chanson romantique
  • Virginie Déjazet, Notre amour était un beau rêve
  • Maréchele Sans-Gêne, Valse de Neipperg

The title of this CD is something of an understatement: rare songs. Even the names of some of the composers will be unfamiliar to many – Michel Ciry, Marcelle de Manziarly, Marcel Delannoy and Maxime Jacob. Paul Derenne himself is known for his performance as Gonzalve in Ansermet’s 1953 recording of Ravel’s L’heure espagnole (Decca, 6/93), and for his contribution to Nadia Boulanger’s 1937 set of Monteverdi madrigals (EMI, 1/89).
The earliest items on this compilation are three light-opera arias, one from Pierre Petit’s Marechele Sans-Gene and two from Georges van Parys’s Virginie Dejazet. In the 1930s Derenne was offered a recording contract by Pathe, who saw him as a new rival to Tino Rossi, singer of romantic tangos. Derenne preferred the world of opera and the concert platform and devoted much of his career to modern composers, for years having a radio programme called L’invitation au voyage which explored the melodie repertory.
The most substantial pieces here are three groups of songs, Jeux rustiques by Louis Beydts, L’adolescence clementine by Jean Francaix and Cartes postales by Maxime Jacob. All the music is what one might call post-Satie, the piano parts sometimes seeming more like incidental music for a recitation of the poem than an engagement with the text in the more robust style of Ravel or Poulenc.
Renaud Machart, the author of the excellent essays on Derenne and his composers, suggests that the ‘zoological style’ with which so many French composers toyed was essentially an excuse for light-hearted humour. Marcel Delannoy’s Le serpent, Henri Cliquet-Pleyel’s settings of fables by Charles Morlaix, and Marcelle de Manziarly’s of two better-known fables by La Fontaine all come into this category. Six of Louis Durey’s versions of Apollinaire’s Le bestiaire are more serious. (These were composed at the same time as Poulenc’s – neither knew the other was at work on the same idea.)
The sound on these radio tapes is as clear as a modern recording, the voice a little forward, with Henri Sauguet’s dedicated playing of other people’s music – only one of his own songs is included, a poem by Rabindranath Tagore translated by Gide, Le jour ou la mort viendra frapper a ta porte. Derenne’s voice by the late 1950s is occasionally strained on the high notes but otherwise unimpaired, and his singing is in the best tradition of light-voiced French tenors. What a huge literature of French song from the mid-twentieth century there is waiting to be rediscovered. This is a disc of the utmost fascination and importance.'

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