A few years ago I reviewed
a disc with highlights from three Offenbach operettas, culled
from complete recordings conducted by Marc Minkowski. The leading
tenor in all three was Yann Beuron. He ‘has a small but expressive
voice’, I wrote and praised his ‘honeyed solos’ in La belle
The original recordings were published 1998 – 2005
and since then his voice has obviously grown, but it is still
an expressive instrument and the honeyed tones still come easily.
Beuron made his debut in 1995 and he appears not only in France
but in Germany, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain and the US. He is
scheduled to sing at the Salzburg Festival. His discography is
extensive and spans works from baroque to 20th
With Billy Eidi at the piano he has taken part in Timpani’s recording
of the complete songs by Albert Roussel. This Fauré disc presents
the twenty-two songs in strictly chronological order, which points
towards a complete series. In Timpani’s catalogue there are however
no previous volumes and Guy Sacre’s comprehensive liner-notes
only say that ‘the ambition of this disc was to bring together
all the melodies from what is called Fauré’s 3rd
Be that as it may, what is heard here is so immediately captivating
that I sincerely hope it isn’t just an isolated phenomenon but
the start of a longer term project.
There is no lack of recordings of Fauré’s melodies, but they are
– almost all of them – so inspired and attractive and with artistry
on this elevated level they stand out even more as masterpieces.
Yann Beuron’s voice is today, as I foreshadowed in the first paragraph,
powerful but with typical French timbre. It is a flexible instrument
that is evenly produced from top to bottom and from pianissimo
to fortissimo. From the point of view of sound it could be mistaken
for a baryton-martin. His low notes are certainly baritonal but
the upper reaches are brilliant lirico spinto notes.
The first song, Larmes
is an impressive calling-card, where
he amply demonstrates his range and power – and there is no lack
of subtlety. Au cimetière
is an exquisite study in finely
graded nuances and beautiful legato. It then gradually expands
in volume and intensity in the 4th
stanzas and then scales down again to an inward last stanza, beautifully
poised. The intensity of expression is strongly projected, whether
he sings forte or pianissimo. Moreover his enunciation is so clear
that even listeners with moderate French knowledge will be able
to catch the text. It is a pity, though, that there are no translations
His intelligent approach is also obvious in his variation of tone.
The two delightful Shylock songs (trs. 5-6) are lighter and more
airy, almost casual and they are well characterized.
The crème de la crème – as compositions as well as interpretations
– are the 5 Mélodies de Venise
to texts by Paul Verlaine
(trs. 7–11). Here he relishes the marriage of words and music
and caresses the phrases with tangible voluptuousness. Just listen
to the last of them, C’est l’extase
(tr. 11) – the person
who doesn’t capitulate at once has to be thick-skinned indeed.
But every song is performed with similar sensitivity and consideration.
(tr. 14), another Verlaine poem, and Soir
(tr. 15) are so fragrant and vulnerable, and the concluding seven
songs, written just after the turn of the century, show that Fauré’s
creative powers were still unbroken also when he approached sixty.
The powerfully dramatic reading of La fleur qui va sur l’eau
(tr. 17) is another highlight. And this is a characteristic feature
of the whole programme: the readings are sensitive but there is
at the same time directness in the address that gives the songs
freshness and vitality. They are still characteristically atmospheric
and slightly elusive but never vapid. Beuron’s intrepidity has
blown away some of the mustiness that in some listeners’ ears
has surrounded this repertoire.
Performing art songs is of course never a one-man-job. The interaction
between singer and pianist has to work smoothly for really memorable
results. Billy Eidi and Yann Beuron obviously have that rapport.
Eidi plays superbly throughout. Initially I thought the piano
was recorded too forwardly but it was only in the first song that
I had any complaints. On a second listening I got the same feeling,
so it may be that the balance was adjusted. The clarity of the
recording allows the listener to hear every detail in the accompaniment
and the piano tone is very beautifully and crisply reproduced.
Last year a French recital (Poulenc and Fauré review
with the Dutch baritone Thomas Oliemans was one of my Recordings
of the Year. It is still early 2010 but the present disc will
almost certainly be at least on my shortlist for this year’s best
recordings. These are great interpretations of great songs.