Solo Vocal: Winner 'Neere' Melodies by Chausson, Duparc, Hahn et Al

By Stearns, David Patrick | Gramophone, September 15, 2016 | Go to article overview

Solo Vocal: Winner 'Neere' Melodies by Chausson, Duparc, Hahn et Al


Stearns, David Patrick, Gramophone


The outward reasons for this disc's top votes amid so many distinguished contenders might not be immediately apparent. Most music here is readily found elsewhere. Nowhere can you say that these gracious Hahn, Chausson and Duparc songs about lilacs and butterflies are 'problem repertoire' (as in Werner Gtira's Beethoven song recital on Harmonia Mundi that was a runner up in this category). And Veronique Gens is no stranger to us, having delivered solid, distinguished recordings over the past 20 years. What makes this recital particularly irresistible is that every element is exponentially better than even the best French recitals out there.

The clean, fat-free, unforced Gens voice is perfect for revealing the emotional specificity of this repertoire--often, one hears an attractively tranquil core in the voice--while using the language with natural directness. Music and words aren't consciously projected so much as they're felt and sung from the inside out. Though Alice Coote is as cultivated a tour guide as one could want in her French recital 'L'heure exquise' on Hyperion (another runner up), she is still an observer, in contrast to Gens, who becomes each song's protagonist.

Without staking her claim on a well-circumscribed viewpoint, she presents a song's inner truth, leaving the listener to discover their multi-textured meaning differently during repeated hearings, especially Hahn's 'A Chloris', whose words speak of bliss but whose piano writing can sound like a lament. …

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