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Hector BERLIOZ (1803 – 1869)
Les nuits d’été, op.7 [29:23]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879–1957)
Chants de France (harmonised by Canteloube) [32:55]
Suzanne Danco (soprano); Lucie Daullène (soprano); Joseph Canteloube (piano)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Thor Johnson
rec. April 1951, Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio USA (Berlioz); Studio des Champs-Élysées, Paris, 1950 (Canteloube). Mono
ELOQUENCE 4828586 [62:30]

Originally recorded for L’Oiseau-Lyre long before it was absorbed into the Decca label, this was apparently the first complete recording of Berlioz’ Les nuits d’été and is as such a landmark – especially as it is so beautifully sung here by Belgian lyric soprano Suzanne Danco, who exhibits her trademark crystalline diction and exceptional musicality of phrasing. She recorded extensively in the 50’s and collectors will perhaps know her as a rare soprano Cherubino in Kleiber’s 1955 Le nozze di Figaro, Donna Anna in Krips’ 1955 Don Giovanni, Eurydice in Rosbaud’s Orphée et Eurydice and as Mélisande in both Inghelbrecht’s and Ansermet classic recordings. Her soprano had a fast vibrato and a very light, bright timbre but was by no means devoid of lower register, coping easily with the low tessitura of “Sur les lagunes”, even though she avoids the low E on “comme un linceul”. Just occasionally there is a touch of the soubrette about her delivery and the lack of variety in her tone can make her delivery of high-lying passages too insistently piping but such moments are fleeting. The combination flowing tempi and her classical restraint do not preclude feeling and her use of legato is especially impressive. This is yet another superb account of a cycle which has enjoyed more successful recordings than most, making choice difficult; my solution is to acquire as many versions as possible, aa I find these songs inexhaustible.

The pairing is something else. The weirdness of Lucie Daullène baby-doll voicelet almost robs me of words adequate to express my surprise and revulsion. This “First CD release on Decca” should be its last; it should never have seen the light of day as it is an affront to the art of singing. Apparently, the legend was promulgated that the singer was fifteen years old when she recorded these songs with the inexplicable approval and still deft accompaniment of the elderly composer; in fact, as the notes make clear, she was nearer nineteen. Her diction and musicality are remarkable but in purely vocal terms, the result is either a peculiarity or an abomination depending on the severity with which you apply the strictures which govern proper vocal technique; singing in a Minnie Mouse falsetto squeak under extreme constriction is not, as far as I am concerned, a legitimate or indeed pleasing soprano sound and to talk as if it were is absurd. I readily acknowledge that chansons do not require the same heft and amplitude of voice as opera but the principles of good, classical voice production are the same and they are flouted here. It is no surprise to learn that Daullène made only one more classical album then moved into another genre; for example, her voice was famously used to dub Snow White in the French release of the Disney cartoon film.

It is a pity that Canteloube, who, despite being a curator of songs, seems to have had little or no appreciation or understanding of voice, and should have been so convinced by the appropriateness of his protégée’s voice to his arrangements that he insisted on her participation, as the songs themselves are a valuable and represent an attractive repository of French cultural heritage. I advise acquiring this only if you value Danco in the Berlioz, as I do, or are a collector of freakish curiosities.

Ralph Moore

Les Nuits d'été
1. Villanelle [2:18]
2. Le spectre de la rose [5:57]
3. Sur les lagunes [7:02]
4. Absence [5:03]
5. Au cimetière (Clair de lune) [4:38]
6. L'île inconnue [4:25]
Chants de France
7. La belle est au jardin d'amour (Picardy) [4:28]
8. Qu'on you n'éro pitchounèlo (Rouergue - Spinning Song) [3:00]
9. Ya rien de si charmant (Savoy) [2:38]
10. La fermo d'un paure omé (Languedoc) [2:43]
11. Ma douce amie (Brittany) [2:21]
12. Petite Claudinette (Savoy) [1:59]
13. Au berdurè (Béarn) [3:32]
14. De bon matin je me suis levé [1:14]
15. Som-Som (Languedoc - Lullaby) [1:28]
16. L'hiver sera bientôt passé (Dauphiny) [1:05]
17. O ciucciarella! (Corsica - Lullaaby) [3:04]
18. Sé lo voy (Haut-Quercy) [2:01]
19. Bon mati me llevi (Roussillon) [2:08]
20. Sur la Montagne (Gascony) [1:14]

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