Véronique Gens: Visions

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, César Franck, Henry Février, Georges Bizet, Camille Saint-Saëns, Félicien David, (Abraham) Louis Niedermeyer, (Jacques-François-)Fromental(-Elie) Halévy, (Louis Charles Bonaventure) Alfred Bruneau, Benjamin (Louis Paul) Godard

Genre:

Opera

Label: Alpha

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 55

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: ALPHA279

ALPHA279. Véronique Gens: Visions

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Geneviève, Movement: Seigneur ! Est-ce bien moi que vous avez choisie? (Louis Charles Bonaventure) Alfred Bruneau, Composer
(Louis Charles Bonaventure) Alfred Bruneau, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
(Les) Béatitudes, Movement: Mater dolorosa César Franck, Composer
César Franck, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Stradella, Movement: Ah! Quel songe affreux! (Abraham) Louis Niedermeyer, Composer
(Abraham) Louis Niedermeyer, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Les Guelfes, Movement: Là-bas, vers le palais Benjamin (Louis Paul) Godard, Composer
Benjamin (Louis Paul) Godard, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Lalla Roukh, Movement: Sous le feuillage sombre Félicien David, Composer
Félicien David, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Gismonda, Movement: Dit-elle vrai? Henry Février, Composer
Henry Février, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Etienne Marcel, Movement: Ah! Laissez-moi, ma mère! Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
(La) Vierge, Movement: Le dernier sommeil de la Vierge (Last Sleep of the Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, Composer
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
(La) Vierge, Movement: L’extase de la Vierge Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet, Composer
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
La Magicienne, Movement: Ce sentier nous conduit vers le couvent voisin (Jacques-François-)Fromental(-Elie) Halévy, Composer
(Jacques-François-)Fromental(-Elie) Halévy, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Clovis et Clotilde, Movement: Prière, ô doux souffle de l’ange Georges Bizet, Composer
Georges Bizet, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
Rédemption, Movement: Le flot se lève César Franck, Composer
César Franck, Composer
Hervé Niquet, Conductor
Munich Radio Orchestra
Véronique Gens, Soprano
This tremendous, heady disc finds Véronique Gens and Hervé Niquet examining sub-cults of visionaries, saints and mystics in some of the less familiar 19th- and early 20th-century French operas and oratorios. It’s provocative stuff, its emotional – at times emotive – impact immeasurably heightened by very careful programming. Gens opens with Bruneau’s Geneviève – heroine of his eponymous 1881 Prix de Rome cantata – responding, Joan of Arc-like, to a divine call to save France from its enemies, then broadens the psychological terrain to encompass the Gothic frissons of Niedermeyer’s Stradella and the mystico-erotic contemplation of a very human lover in Godard’s Les Guelfes. The climax is reached with Massenet’s depiction of the Virgin Mary’s ecstatic vision of Paradise after the Assumption, a disquietingly sensual passage, given the context, that balletomanes will recognise at once as the final pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. Thereafter the mood becomes calmer and the recital closes with reflections on the efficacy of prayer from Bizet’s Clovis et Clotilde (another Prix de Rome cantata) and Franck’s Rédemption.

Gens and Niquet throw themselves into all this with an engrossing mix of abandon and restraint. Gens’s trademark combination of purity of utterance and smoky tone speaks volumes in a repertory in which ‘religion [is] the palliative for carnal love’, as the booklet notes put it. Much of the time, she’s sparing and introverted, which means that the big emotional outpourings are all the more overwhelming when we reach them. In Bizet, Godard and the Virgin Mary’s aria from Les Béatitudes, it’s the long-breathed, hovering lines that send shivers down your spine. But real turmoil erupts when Léonor, the heroine of Stradella, wakes from a terrifying nightmare and senses she is being punished by an inscrutable God. And the way Gens’s voice surges in rapture through the Massenet is simply breathtaking. Niquet is just as committed, just as insightful, and the Munich Radio Orchestra’s contribution is first rate. At 56 minutes, the disc is on the short side, but any more would, I suspect, feel like overkill. I also found the emotional trajectory gains even greater force from reversing the playing order of the last two tracks, ending with Bizet rather than Franck. It’s a spectacular achievement, though: whatever you do, don’t hold back.

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