Invitation au Voyage - Mélodies Françaises
Stéphanie d’Oustrac (mezzo)
Pascal Jourdan (piano)
rec. 2014, Espace culturel C.J. Bonnet, Chapel of Jujurieux, France
French texts, English, German translations included
AMBRONAY AMY042 [70:59]

Stéphanie d’Oustrac, a great-niece of Francis Poulenc, has released a new album Invitation au Voyage - a stunning collection of twenty-one songs. Rennes-born d’Oustrac has chosen mélodies from five French composers, four from Duparc, eight from Debussy, two from Hahn, three from Boulanger and four from Jacques de la Presle, a composer unknown to me who is also the great uncle to d’Oustrac. In view of the relationship it seems curious that d’Oustrac hasn’t included any mélodies from her great-uncle Poulenc.

Owing to her work with early music specialists William Christie and Marc Minkowski I’ve tended to associate d’Oustrac with mainly Baroque music from say Lully, Charpentier and Handel. This release centred on romantic/post romantic composers demonstrates her versatility. To my ears the inclusion of the four mélodies by Jacques de la Presle, not surprisingly quite similar in style to his cousin Poulenc, is not out of place in this elevated company and those songs deserve to be heard.

Moving fluidly and with ease between the particular moods of the mélodies Stéphanie d’Oustrac is a most captivating and polished performer — undoubtedly one of finest recital singers of her generation. As chance would have it my two standout tracks happen to be the first and last works on the release. Atmospheric and reflective Henri Duparc’s well known, L'invitation au voyage written in 1884 demonstrates this singer's burnished tone — smoky and mightily expressive. I can’t agree with the author of the booklet notes who uncharitably describes the pair of works contained here by the Venezuelan born, French citizen Reynaldo Hahn as “sentimental ditties, unabashed salonnard.” These are jewels of the mélodie repertoire that I never tire of hearing. With d’Oustrac’s exquisite delivery À Chloris (To Chloris) is as absorbing as one could imagine. Adding real artistic value throughout the sensitive accompaniment of Pascal Jourdan is vivid and steadfast.

I’m sad to say that the booklet essay didn’t make much sense to me. There are some very curious choices of word; maybe much was lost in translation. Thankfully the booklet includes full French texts with English and German translations. The technical team for Ambronay has provided superb clear sound and have struck a perfect balance between voice and piano.

This is a wonderful and praiseworthy recital of elevated artistry.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: John Quinn

Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
L'invitation au voyage (1884)
Chanson triste (1868)
Soupir (ca 1869)
La vie antérieure (1884)
Jacques de la PRESLE (1888-1969)
Odelette (1913)
Vœu (1912)
Dédette (1913)
Nocturne (1912)
Claude DEBUSSY (1865-1918)
Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire (1887/89)
Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé (1913)
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
from Clairières dans le ciel (1916?):
No.6 Si tout ceci n'est qu'un pauvre rêve;
No..7 Nous nous aimerons tant;
No.8 Vous m'avez regardé avec toute votre âme
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
La Chère Blessure (1900)
À Chloris (1916)

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