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Widor: Chansons De Mer, La Nuit, Nuit Mysterieuse / Bundy, Fisell

Widor / Bundy / Filsell
Release Date: 06/29/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572345   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy FilsellMichael Bundy
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WIDOR Chansons de mer. La Nuit. Tristesse infinite. Nuit mystérieuse. Dormez, Mèlité. Oublieras-tu que d’heures douces Michael Bundy (bar); Jeremy Filsell (pn) NAXOS 8.572345 (63: 51 Text and Translation)


One of the great pleasures of reviewing recordings for Fanfare is the occasional discovery that one would have been unlikely to make on one’s own. This disc is a perfect example. The name Charles-Marie Read more Widor is inextricably bound up with the organ, and I had no idea he wrote in any other forms. Although I am certain some Fanfare reader will fill me in on something I’ve missed, I am not aware of any prior recording of his songs. I admit to putting the disc on with low expectations (probably not helped by the fact that the organ is not my favorite instrument). After a half dozen hearings, the disc has made it to this year’s Want List.


Widor (1844–1937—Naxos gets those dates right on the jewelbox insert, but erroneously states “1843–1937” on the booklet) was one of the great organists of the 19th century, and one of the most important composers for that instrument after Bach. It turns out that he composed more than 100 songs, as well as operas, orchestral works, and chamber music. This is my first encounter with anything other than his organ music, and based on this experience I intend to seek out more.


These songs are early examples of the French mélodie , a (mostly) gentle type of art song perhaps first explored by Berlioz and then Gounod. Widor was somewhat of a pioneer in this area, coming ahead of Fauré, Debussy, Duparc, Ravel, Hahn, and Poulenc. Widor was a contemporary of Massenet (1842–1912), another composer of first-class melodies.


The level of inventiveness, imagination, and sheer inspiration here is staggering. The major work is a cycle of 14 songs, Chansons de mer . If you think these will all be gently flowing pieces reflecting calm waters, think again. “Les Nuages” turns very dark and dramatic, with lines like “The waves sing their funereal songs. / Lisen to them! But in spring the snow in tears / Streams down the hills, / As if from open wounds / Streams the blood of anguish.” The music is urgent, dramatic, and memorable. Immediately before that, an intimate, tender, wistful and beautiful song, “Seul dans la nuit” (Alone in the Night). The emotional range of the cycle is huge, the melodic inspiration extraordinary. The individual songs that complete the disc are no less impressive. Tristesse infinite is particularly powerful.


The performances are deeply felt and extremely communicative. Michael Bundy and Jeremy Filsell are clearly not just reading through the music in order to notch a recording of previously unrecorded music. They believe in these pieces, they know them well, they shape them beautifully. Bundy’s singing lacks the vocal richness of the finest baritones (I would love to have heard Gerard Souzay or José van Dam perform these songs). Some of the singing is a bit blustery, and some high notes like the G near the end of the last song do not come easy. But as I have said before in these pages, the most difficult thing to describe is a performance that is good but not great. The proof of the quality of these performances is that after a half-dozen hearings of this disc, I am still enjoying it and finding new pleasures each time.


The recorded sound favors the singer a bit more than is ideal, but it too is basically fine. As is traditional with Naxos, no texts are provided with the disc, but you can download them from their Web site. Of course you then wind up with six pages of paper too large to file conveniently with the disc, but the texts are essential for appreciating this music and one is grateful that they are provided at all. The notes that do come with the disc are excellent.


FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1. Chansons de mer, Op. 75 by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1902 
2. La nuit by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896 
3. Tristesse infinie by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
4. Nuit Mystérieuse by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1905 
5. Dormez, Mèlité by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1916 
6. Oublieras-Tu que d’heures douces by Charles-Marie Widor
Performer:  Jeremy Filsell (Piano), Michael Bundy (Bass)
Period: Romantic 

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