Emmanuel Chabrier & the Art of French Song: 19th and 20th Century Repertoire & Charles Gounod. (Music Reviews)

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Emmanuel Chabrier. Melodies en 2 volumes. Edition par Roger Delage. (Le pupitre, 75-76.) (Musica gallica.) Paris: Heugel (T. Presser), c1995-97. [Vol. 1. Pref. in Fr., Eng., Ger., p. vii-xxviii; 1 plate; score, p. 2-97. HE 33708. $32.25. Vol. 2. Pref. in Fr., Eng., Ger., p. vii-xviii; 3 plates; score, p. 1-108. HE 33709. $32.25.]

The Art of French Song: 19th and 20th Century Repertoire. Selected and edited by Roger Nichols. Complete with translations and guidance on pronunciation. Editions for high and medium/low voice. London: Edition Peters, c1999. [Vol. 1. Pref. in Eng., Ger., p. 3-5; song texts in Eng., Fr., Ger., p. 6-15; score, p. 16-118; crit. commentary, p. 119-20. High: ISMN M-57708-160-1; EP 7519a; meti./low: ISMN IvI-57708-161-8; EP 7519b. $19.95. Vol. 2. Acknowledgments, 1 p.; pref. in Eng., Ger., p. 5-7; song texts in Eng., Fr., Ger., p. 8-16; score, p. 17-114; crit. commentary, p. 115-16. High: ISMN M-57708-162-5; EP 7520a; med./low: ISMN M-57708-1 63-2; EP 7520b. $19.95.]

Charles Gounod. 10 Meloadies. Selection: Jacqueline Bonnardot. Editions for high and medium voice. Paris: Editions Henry Lemoine (T. Presser), c1998. [Pref. in Fr., Eng., 1 p.; summarized trans., 3 p.; score, p. 1-66. High: ISMN M-23096-6733-4; 26 733 H.L; med.: ISMN M-23096-6733-4; 26 733 H.L.; $25.25.]

Charles Gounod. 11 Melodies. Selection: Jacqueline Bonnardot. Editions for high and medium voice. Paris: Editions Henry Lemoine (T. Presser), c1998. [Pref. in Fr., Eng., 1 p.; summarized trans., 3 p.; score, p. 1-59 (med.: 1-56). High: ISMN M-23096-6736-6; 26 736 H.L.; med.: ISMN M-23096-6735-8; 26 735 H.L. $22.50.]

The French melodie, a genre that developed early in the 1800s but did not reach its full maturity until the latter half of the century, contains some of the most lyrical and beautiful works composed for voice and piano. Thus, the appearance of four new editions of this repertory, including a much-needed anthology, is good news for scholars and performers alike.

The edition of Emmanuel Chabrier's melodies by Roger Delage is the product of the solid scholarship associated with the series Le pupitre. These two volumes, which together include Chabrier's complete oeuvre of twenty-four songs for voice and piano (plus Espana in a transcription by Emile Louis), form a handsome pair. Each begins with a lengthy foreword, first given in French, then in English and German, that is packed with information about the works contained therein, including dates of composition (when known) or publication, provenance of the poetry, identification of poets and dedicatees (often with delightful insights into contemporary Parisian concert life), and details about first performances (when applicable). In the first volume, Delage also includes observations regarding Chabrier's compositional style, noting how characteristics associated with the composer's more mature music appear in his earliest fourteen songs. Curiously, a brief introduction to the composer's life is located in the second vo lume rather than more logically in the first.

One significant disappointment with this edition is the absence of translations. While I would not advocate performing these works in anything but their original French, reading translations would have been useful for performers as well as scholars, especially those not fluent in the subtleties of French poetry. I spotted only a few additional lapses in the collection, such as the unidiomatic syntax of the English foreword, but these are minor.

Delage relied on extant manuscripts as his principle musical sources, which "are splendidly clear" anti were used "with hardly any editorial intervention" (vol. 1, p. xiii). Indeed, each song remains uncluttered by editorial performance suggestions, including added articulation or dynamic marks. Variant readings are mentioned in the foreword, especially in volume 2. In addition, each volume includes one elegantly reproduced manuscript facsimile, and the second volume also reprints two decorative title pages. …