Friday 10 November 2017

Voyages: Mary Bevan in Duparc, Faure, Schubert, Debussy & more

Voyages - Signum Classics - Mary Bevan
Voyages - Duparc, Faure, Chabrier, Schubert, Deodat de Severac, Pierre de Breville, Debussy, and Maurice Rollinat; Mary Bevan, Joseph Middleton; Signum Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 7 2017 Star rating: 4.5
A voyage to exotic places through the eyes of the poets Baudelaire and Goethe

On this recital of mainly French song on the Signum Classics label, soprano Mary Bevan and pianist Joseph Middleton begin with Henri Duparc's L'invitation au voyage and then move through songs by Faure, Chabrier, Schubert, Deodat de Severac, Pierre de Breville, Debussy, and Maurice Rollinat. The thread that links them is their poetry, inspired by Baudelaire's images of women in far off lands, Bevan and Middleton combine songs which are inspired by Goethe's Mignon's images of a perfect distant land.

So we have settings of Baudelaire and Goethe in French translation, alongside Schubert's Goethe settings in German. Schubert's Vier Mignon Lieder and Debussy's Cinq poems de Beaudelaire form the twin centrepieces of the recital. Along the way there are some fascinating wayside stops, Chabrier's L'invitation au voyage, so different from the Duparc setting, and with Amy Harman's evocative obbligato bassoon, Duparc's classically poised Romance de Mignon, Deodat de Severac's evocatively exotic Les hiboux and Pierre de Breville's fluidly passionate Harmonie du soir.

In this context, Schubert's four Mignon settings make a striking difference, contained and intense, with Bevan and Middleton giving poised performances. Though Bevan sings with a beautiful sense of line here, her rather fluid way with music tends not to bring out the text as much as I would like.

Elsewhere, her finely modulated yet fluid tone suits the songs admirably, bringing out the flexibility of the line and even in the most classically inspired hinting at the seductiveness which is always implicit in Baudelaire's texts.

This approach works well in Debussy's Cing poms de Baudelaire where Joseph Middleton brings out the luxuriance of the piano part, very much partnering rather than accompanying, without ever overwhelming. These songs are seductive and exotic, but delicate too; there are large, Wagner-inspired moments but also tenderness and quiet.

Coming out the other side of the Debussy, it is both a relief and a contrast to move to Duparc's less luxuriant, more classical but equally seductive La vie anterieure. The recital finishes with a pair of songs by Maurice Rollinat, who had had little musical training, was a poet as well and performed at the Chat Noir cabaret. His songs are beautiful miniatures which hint at the complex possibilities of the French chanson in the 20th century.

The disc is accompanied by an introductory article from Mary Bevan and a fine introduction to the music and poetry by Helen Abbott.

Henri Duparc (1848-1933) - L'invitation au voyage
Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) - Chant d'Automne Op.5, No. 1
Gabriel Faure - Hymne Op.7, No.2
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) - L'invitation au voyage
Henri Duparc - Romance de Mignon
Franz Schubert - Vier Mignon Lieder
Deodat de Severac (1872-1921) - Les hiboux
Pierre de Breville (1861-1949) - Harmonie du soir
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) - Cinq poems de Baudelaire
Henri Duparc - La vie anterieure
Maurice Rollinat (1846-1903) - Harmonie du soir
Maurice Rollinat- Le jet d'eau
Mary Bevan (soprano)
Joseph Middleton (piano)
Recorded at All Saints Church, Durham Road, London, 28 November - 1 December 2016
Available from Amazon.

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