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Verbier Festival 2009 - Susan Graham Sings French Songs

Bizet / Franck / Graham / Martineau
Release Date: 08/30/2010 
Label:  Juxtapositions   Catalog #: 3079128  
Composer:  Georges BizetCésar FranckCamille Saint-SaënsEmmanuel Chabrier,   ... 
Performer:  Malcolm MartineauSusan Graham
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Recorded live at the Verbier Festival, 18 July 2009.

REGION CODE NTSC: 0
PICTURE FORMAT: NTSC 16:9
SOUND FORMATS: PCM-STEREO DD 5.1
SUBTITLES: GB, D, F, JP
BOOKLET: GB, D, F
DISC FORMAT: DVD9
NO OF DISCS: 1
RUN TIME: 60 mins

A most satisfying recital of French song from the Verbier Festival.

A short title sequence reminds us that Verbier is one of the world’s most famous ski resorts. This most satisfying recital was filmed at the sixteenth annual music festival that also takes place there.
 
Chanson d’avril makes a lovely opener, though in that delightful song, and in Franck’s more sombre Nocturne which follows,
Read more Miss Graham has not quite got into her stride. What is obvious though, right from the outset, is the warm complicity between the singer and her accompanist, and Malcolm Martineau’s immensely subtle and sensitive playing brings great pleasure throughout the recital. The third song is an adaptation of Saint-Saëns’ famous orchestral piece. The text uses peasants and barons, sex and death, to point up a moral of social equality! It’s light-hearted and, like all Saint-Saëns, well conceived both for the piano and the voice. Its placing here in the programme is a sign of the care the artists have taken to construct a programme both varied and balanced. They call it a “tasting menu”, referring to the fact that it is made up mainly of single songs by many different composers. One might think such a formula would be bitty and difficult to bring off. The songs are arranged skilfully, however, with sufficient link and contrast, both musically and by theme, to make a satisfying whole. I think even a well-informed lover of French song might find one or two new ones here. And the programme certainly pleases the Verbier audience.
 
“Les cigales chantent mieux que les violins”, or so Chabrier’s delightful song tells us, and see how delightfully Graham “plays” the piano postlude with her eyes, along with her excellent pianist. Duparc’s Au pays où se fait la guerre is a young woman’s passionate lament at the absence of her soldier lover whilst she is left alone to await his return. Ravel’s Le paon follows, and though we might be surprised now that the first performance of the cycle from which it is taken provoked a riot, we hear, nonetheless, something altogether new, both in the writing and the daring choice of text. Susan Graham brilliantly captures the mocking irony of this miniature masterpiece, as she does, even more so, in the Caplet song that follows. And this is perhaps the moment to say that her French – a horrible language for any singer other than a native French speaker – is so good that it’s a perverse pleasure to point out that she mispronounces the word “leçon” in this song.
 
Singer and pianist conjure up a suitably melancholy atmosphere in two songs dealing with unhappy love affairs, where the harmonic astringency of Roussel leads into some unmistakeable Debussy. After this, Fauré’s wordless song, written as an examination piece for the Paris Conservatoire, comes as something of a relief.
 
A short group of lighter songs follows, beginning with Honegger’s three-song cycle that, in spite of its minuscule duration, evokes a world of human emotion. Quite what the final “Song of the Pear” has to do with the mermaids in the other songs is something I’m still pondering, though. Manuel Rosenthal’s song about an unwelcome immigrant in Calais is a brilliant recital piece: singer and pianist lose no opportunity to act out its comic storyline. Miss Graham’s operatic experience has already been in evidence earlier in the recital, and she relies on it here, and even more in the final item of the programme. The excellent booklet note by Paula Kennedy quite rightly points out that Poulenc’s La Dame de Monte-Carlo is not really a song at all, more a short operatic scena. The character, female, aging, disappointed, fits Poulenc like a glove, and the use of irony and an unlikely setting to express serious and profound human issues is typical both of that composer and of much of modern French music. It is a fine piece and this performance of it is very moving. Reynaldo Hahn’s cool A Chloris, with echoes of Bach in the piano part, is a most effective encore.
 
The sung texts are in French and if you want to practise your French still further you can switch on the French subtitles. Otherwise, translations are provided for English, German or Japanese speaking viewers.
 
The recital is simply but effectively filmed, with no tricks. One particularly effective camera angle shows us Miss Graham from the side, whilst at the same time revealing her accompanist’s face. That said, the back cover of the booklet announces a CD, Onyx 4030, on which these same artists duplicate almost exactly the same programme, as well as one or two extra songs. I haven’t heard the Onyx disc, but since I don’t feel that in the present case the visual element really adds very much, I think I might be more tempted by it than I am by this admittedly excellent DVD.  

-- William Hedley, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Chanson d'avril by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1867; France 
2.
Nocturne by César Franck
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Written: 1884 
3.
Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
4.
Mélodies (6): no 5, Les cigales by Emmanuel Chabrier
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890; France 
5.
Chère nuit by Alfred Bachelet
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
6.
Au pays où se fait la guerre by Henri Duparc
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1869-70; France 
7.
Histoires naturelles: no 1, Le paon by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; France 
8.
Fables de Jean de la Fontaine (3): no 1, Le Corbeau et le Renard by André Caplet
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
9.
Poèmes chinois (2), Op. 35: no 2, Résponse d'une épouse sage by Albert Roussel
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; France 
10.
Fêtes galantes, Set 2: no 3, Colloque sentimental by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
11.
Vocalise-étude by Gabriel Fauré
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; France 
12.
Chansons (3) de la petite sirène d'Anderson by Arthur Honegger
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; France 
13.
Chansons de Monsieur Bleu: no 9, La souris d'Angleterre by Manuel Rosenthal
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934 
14.
La dame de Monte Carlo by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; France 
15.
A Chloris by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Malcolm Martineau (Piano), Susan Graham (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; France 

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