For those who appreciate the security of a trusted brand name -- a rare commodity today -- CDs bearing the imprint of the French label Naive will not disappoint.
The company was justifiably ecstatic when Anne Sofie von Otter's Douce France was named best classical recording at the 47th Grammy Awards. This is a release that could give crossover a good name -- a gorgeous double set with the Swedish mezzo roving from concert hall to cabaret; one disc of Debussy, Ravel and their confreres, a second ranging from Charles Trenet to Georges Moustaki.
Amongst a new batch of Naive titles, Chansons Perpetuelles has Marie-Nicole Lemieux transporting us into a luscious twilight hour of songs from the 1890s.
Five settings from Faure's Venice reveal the Canadian contralto at her most supple and subtle, balancing intimacy and passion. The revelation for many will be three lieder from the Italian Songbook by Austrian Hugo Wolf (1860-1903). Lemieux investigates these miniature song worlds with exquisite nuancing and, in the second, a delicious line in coquetry.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Five songs from the soulful Rachmaninov showcase the sumptuous tone that causes this singer to describe herself as contralto rather than mezzo -- Pushkin's plea in the well-known Do not sing for me, O lovely one would melt the stoniest heart.
Less familiar is the music of Charles Koechlin (1867-1950). The final chanson of his Opus 5 measures out melancholy to the strains of a minuet, elegantly played by pianist Roger Vignoles.
Three songs by Guillaume Lekeu, who died in 1894 at only 24, include a rapturous vision of a world by night, heightened by the eloquent Quatuor Psophos.
The string players return at the end of the set on what is not only the title track of the album but also one of the very last compositions of Ernest Chausson (1855-1899).
The Frenchman's favoured "tristesse" is movingly conveyed in this vision of a deserted doomed lover returning to nature. The accompaniment recalls Wagner's Tristan in mood and with direct quotation, a perfect backdrop for the singing of this matchless artist.
Verdict: Canadian contralto transports us into a lush twilight zone