Soile Isokoski sings Chausson, Berlioz & Duparc
Soile Isokoski has turned to the French repertoire for her latest album, and in some respects one wishes she had done so a few years earlier. Her voice, sadly, is no longer quite what it was: the sheen has gone from the tone; all too frequently a pulse or flutter creeps in, accentuated in places by the recording itself, which places her a bit too far forwards. Her familiar artistry, though, remains intact. Lines are beautifully sustained. Her way with words is subtle and crystal clear, with little sense of interventionist nudging. As always, she aims to let the music speak for itself.
As a result, the disc arouses mixed feelings. The end of Poème de l’amour et de la mer is touching in its understated bitterness, but that flutter in the sound robs the opening of its rapture. She and John Storgårds adopt a chamber approach to Les nuits d’été. The cycle need not, of course, be sung at full operatic throttle to have its full impact, but this, I fear, seems overly reined in. It’s an approach that suits the wit of ‘Villanelle’ and the creepiness of ‘Au cimetière’, but ‘Le spectre de la rose’ is too delicate to convey genuine passion and ‘Sur les lagunes’ too muted for tragedy.
She brings telling insights to the Duparc songs. ‘L’invitation au voyage’ is unusually urgent rather than languid, reminding us that in Baudelaire’s poem ‘luxe, calme et volupté’ are actually to be sought elsewhere than the here and now. The playing is pristine and superbly detailed, though Storgårds’s Wagnerian way with Chausson won’t be to everyone’s taste. None of it, sadly, is on the same level as Régine Crespin’s or Eleanor Steber’s classic recordings of the Berlioz (Decca, 3/64; Urania or Praga Digitals, 7/56), or Victoria de los Angeles’s performance of Poème de l’amour et de la mer (EMI, 3/73).