Wednesday 22 October 2014

La Belle Excentrique

La Belle Excentrique - Patricia Petibon, Susan Manoff, Deutsche Grammophon
Le Belle Excentrique; Patricia Petibon, Susan Manoff; Deutsche Grammophon
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Oct 13 2014
Star rating: 5.0

Highly idiosyncratic performances of French melodies, full of delight, charm and wit

I last saw Patricia Petibon as Blanche in Olivier Py's production of Poulenc's Carmelites in Paris in 2013. For this new disc on Deutsche Grammophon the French soprano is exploring an altogether racketier world, though she is joined by Py for two items. The two open the disc with Leo Ferre's Jolie mome, first sung by Juliet Greco and from then on the disc is a fascinating mixture of French song from Gabriel Faure through to Leo Ferre, via Eric Satie, Francis Poulenc, Maurice Ravel, Manuel Rosenthal, Reynaldo Hahn and Francine Cockenpot. That this is no ordinary song recital might be judged from its title, which comes from Eric Satie's work for piano duet La Belle Excentrique movements from which are also featured on the disc, as are other Satie piano pieces. And the Rosenthal songs have added percussion, from Francois Verly. The performers have also improvised short linking passages, named after well known 19th century danseuses at the Moulin Rouge. Petibon is accompanied by pianist Susan Manoff, and Manoff is joined by pianist David Levi for the Satie piano duets. Other instrumentalists featured on the disc include Christian Pierre LaMarca, Francois Verly,David Venitucci and Nenanja Radulovic

Many of the items on the disc are short, and the movements from the Satie pieces are scattered around as linking items. The recital is not so much a series of groupings of songs, as a single long span which takes the listener from the Parisian verve of the opening, through moods of reflection, tragi-comedy and love, to animal antics and a final series of farewells. The music hall is never far away. Satie's La Belle Excentrique, a serious fantasy for piano four hands, was written in 1900 for the dancer Caryathis whilst his song Allons-y-Chochotte was probably written for the music-hall performer Paulette Darty, as was the waltz Je te veux. And Manuel Rosenthal's Chansons du Monsieur Bleu, three of which Petibon sings, were first performed by the actress and music hall performer Marie Dubas.

Rosenthal, who was one of Ravel's few pupils, is best known for his arrangements of Offenbach for the ballet Gaite Parisienne. His Chansons du Monsieur Bleu set light-hearted words by Michel Veber, inspired by the fact that Veber's young son called Rosenthal Monsieur Bleu. Petibon and Manoff include two more Rosenthal songs, from the Trois Poems die Marie Roustan, more serious but still light in texture. All is not light-hearted and one of the joys of the recital is the way the different songs set each other off. There is a pause for reflection with Poulenc's Hier and Satie's La Statue de bronze, joining two Rosenthal songs, but it is the section devoted to love which is the most serious. Here we have Faure's Spleen and En sourdine, Hahn' Pholoe and A Chloris. And it is a tribute to Petibon's range that she can switch from Satie's Je te veux and Ferre's On s'aimera to singing Faure and Hahn with poised perfection.

Every item on the disc is done idiomatically well, whether it be Petibon and Olivier Py accompanied by Susan Manoff in full music hall mode, Petibon and Manoff in Faure, or Manoff and Levi in a Satie piano duet; and we find the more serious items sitting remarkably well with the lighter ones. The performers find a common thread running through the songs, and you find the sparkier Poulenc songs gain in depth and resonance. The Poulenc in particular are not easy to sing and here Petibon impresses.

Pianist David Levy joins Susan Manoff for two movements from Satie piano duets, Olivier Py contributes vocals to Ferre's Jolie mome and Satie's Allons-y, Chochotte. On this latter they are also joined by cellist Christin-Pierr La Marca, who also adds a lovely counter-melody to Satie's Je te veux. Violinist Memanja Radulovic joins Petibon and Manoff for Ferre's On s'aimera. Accordionist David Venitucci plays on Ferre's Jolie mome and Francis Poulenc's Voyage a paris, whilst Francois Verly adds percussion to the Rosenthal songs, Poulenc's Ba, be, bi, bo, bu and Ferre's Jolie mome.

I found this disc a complete delight and would recommend it whole-heartedly. The music on the disc is subject to a sort of vivid re-creation, but one which takes the music seriously and the performances are a delight and charm.

Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Les Courses (Sports et Divertissements) [0:22]
Léo Ferré (1916 - 1993) - Jolie môme [3:21]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Grand ritournelle (La Belle Excentrique "fantasie sérieuse") [1:48]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Les gars qui vont à la fête (Chansons villageoises)
Voyage à Paris (Banalités) [1:24]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) -
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Hier (Trois poèmes de Louise Lalanne) [1:52]
Manuel Rosenthal (1904 - ) - Rêverie (Trois Poémes de Marie Roustan) [2:54]
Manuel Rosenthal (1904 - ) - Pêcheur de Lune (Trois Poémes de Marie Roustan) [2:40]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - La statue de bronze (Mélodies) [2:01]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - La tragique histoire du petit René (Quatre chansons pour enfants) [1:21]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Le Picnic (Sports et Divertissements) [0:25]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Allons-y, chochotte! [4:06]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Je te veux [4:18]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Cancan grand-mondain (La Belle Excentrique "fantasie sérieuse") [2:04]
Léo Ferré (1916 - 1993) - On s'aimera [4:18]
Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) - Désespoir agréable (Six Pièces de la période 1906-1913) [1:11]
Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924) - Spleen (4 Mélodies, Op.51) [2:02]
Reynaldo Hahn (1874 - 1947) - Pholoé (Études latines) [1:43]
Reynaldo Hahn (1874 - 1947) - À Chloris(20 Mélodies, 2e recueil) [3:13]
Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924) - En sourdine(Cinq Melodies 'de Venise', Op.58) [3:08]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Ba, Be, Bi, Bo, Bu (La Courte Paille) [0:40]
Manuel Rosenthal (1904 - 2003) - L'Éléphant du Jardin des Plantes (Chansons du monsieur Bleu) [1:43]
Manuel Rosenthal (1904 - 2003) - Fido, fido (Chansons du monsieur Bleu) [1:12]
Manuel Rosenthal (1904 - 2003) - Le vieux chameau du Zoo (Chansons du monsieur Bleu) [2:56]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Chanson d'Orkenise (Banalités) [1:36]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Aux officiers de la garde blanche (Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin) [3:05]
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Hôtel (Banalités) [1:45]
Francine Cockenpot - Colchique dans les prés [3:02]
Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924) - Les berceaux (Three Melodies for Voice and Piano, Op.23) [2:49]
Patricia Petibon (soprano)
Susan Manoff (piano)
David Levi (piano)
Olivier Py (vocals)
Christian-Pierre La Marca (cello)
Nemanja Radulovic (violin)
David Venitucci (accordion)
Francois Verly (percussion)
Recorded Berlin teldex Sudio, September 2013
DEUTSCHE GRAMOPHON 479 2465 1CD [64.52]
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