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Op. 2/6 & 7; 8/1 & 3; 11/1 & 2; 13 1-4; 19/3 & Op. 36/2
Fetes galantes (1); Proses lyriques; Nuits blanches
Christine Schäfer (soprano) and Irwin Gage (piano) with Stella Doufexis (mezzo)
Deutsche Grammophon 459 682-2 75'56"
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Dans la foret du charme et l'enchantement op.36 No.2. Quatre Melodies op.13. Le Temps des lilas op.19 No.3 (Chausson). Fetes galantes. Proses lyriques. Nuits blanches (Debussy). Hebe op.2 No.6. Le Colibri op.2 No.7. Nocturne op.8 No.1. Printemps triste op.8 No.3. La Nuit op.11 No.1. Reveil op.11 No.2

Chausson (1855-99) and Debussy had a close friendship for a few years until a rift brought about by marital complications. Ernest Chausson's songs featured here date mostly from the 1880s, when he was attracted by the Symbolist poets. Most of his texts and their settings displaying a romantic gloom, with increasing chromaticism during that period, the lively La cigale and the two charming duets of Op. 11 being exceptions. Dans le foret Op 36/2, which has 'not a single unclouded major chord' (Roger Nichols), was composed in 1898, the year before Chausson was killed in a cycling accident.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is represented by three of his famous Verlaine settings, and 6 settings of his own words. Christine Schäfer brings concentration and poise to each of these songs, and sings seemingly effortlessly in her exquisite high lyric soprano, which I had enjoyed recently in the demanding coloratura of Zerbinetta in Strauss's Ariadne at The Barbican [reviewed by S&H, March 2000]. There is no feeling of routine in these studio performances and the accompaniments by Irwin Gage are exemplary in their equal sensitivity and well balanced by Rainer Maillard, who does not suppress the piano at all at climaxes. It is an imaginative touch to end the recital by introducing Stella Douflexis in two of Chausson's duets, composed for his wife and sister.

A first class CD, recommended unreservedly.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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