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Les Anges Musiciens - Poulenc Melodies / Sophie Karthauser

Poulenc / Karthauser / Asti
Release Date: 04/08/2014 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 902179   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie KarthäuserEugene Asti
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



POULENC 2 poèmes de Louis Aragon. Bleuet. Banalités: Hôtel; Voyage à Paris. 2 mélodies de Guillaume Apollinaire: Montparnasse. 3 poèmes de Louise Lalanne. Ce doux petit visage. Main dominée par le cœur. Tel jour telle nuit. Vocalise-Étude. Fiançailles pour rire. Fancy. La courte paille. À sa guitare. Léocadia: Les chemins de l’amour Sophie Karthäuser (sop); Eugene Asti Read more (pn) HARMONIA MUNDI 902179 (66: 06 Text and Translation)


Poulenc mélodies often fall into one of four expressive categories: the melancholic/sentimental (often characterized by steady eighth-note accompaniment and frequent minor-ninth chords), the manic/madcap (often involving perpetual motion, patter, and conspicuous dissonance), the somber (often featuring modal, chorale-textured accompaniments), and the charming music-hall waltz. That each piece nonetheless is independently satisfying is a testament both to Poulenc’s wealth of creative ideas and to the reality that music need not consist of unprecedented materials for it to be unique. Among Poulenc’s greatest strengths was the depth of his musical exploration.


With 37 mélodies , this recording provides a fine cross-section of Poulenc’s vocal work—just under one-quarter of it. Included are three large-scale song cycles, several smaller sets, and a few single songs. Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a light, warm voice well suited to Poulenc. Although her instrument most naturally fits the gentler, more ingratiating mélodies on the disc, she is able to project the brassy sternness needed for Poulenc’s more aggressive pieces. Her diction is crisp and articulate throughout and is not overly percussive in the patter songs (though it is occasionally slightly overdone in emphatic passages). And she achieves a sense of languorous ennui when appropriate through subtle, well-controlled portamentos. Pianist Eugene Asti is a capable and expressive accompanist, handling the rushing whirl of Le présent with apparent ease, demonstrating subtle flexibility in the opening instrumental recitative of “C.” (the first of the 2 poemes de Louis Aragon) , and projecting a delicate sadness in such pieces as Un ruine coquille vide (the accompaniment of which has some intriguing overlaps with the final movement of the much later sonata for oboe and piano.) Only a few moments of uneven passagework (most noticeably in the piano postlude to Main dominée par le cœur ) fall short of full mastery.


The sound engineering places the piano a bit more in the background than is my general preference—and all the more so in these pieces, in which the piano is an equal collaborator. Even when the accompaniment is not at all virtuosic, the piano provides crucial harmonic color and carries a great deal of the emotional weight of the music. This is of particular note in such pieces as the Vocalise-Étude , in which it is clear that Asti is playing with an appropriately heavy, thick touch, but the piano is nonetheless subsumed under the vocal line. Aside from this issue, though, the sound quality is excellent: consistently warm, clear, and resonant without echo or overload.


Particular highlights on the recording include Montparnasse , in which Karthäuser tempers the general warmth of her voice with occasional pointed, brittle tones to convey the text’s moments of sarcasm. Similarly, in Il vole , Karthäuser captures the text’s shift from the busy litany of mundane thefts to the sincere confession of unhappy love, shifting her tone color from sternness to vulnerability. And her ability to produce floating, ethereal high notes is used to great effect in “C.” and “Hier” (the third of the 3 poemes de Louise Lalanne ). Occasionally, as in Lune d’Avril , Karthäuser’s crescendos are not matched by an increase in timbral richness. The effect is not quite of strain, but of thinness or dryness of tone. Such moments are rare, though, and her overall sound is extremely pleasing. It is also worth noting that her English diction on Fancy is quite French-inflected—but so is Poulenc’s setting of the text, which is accented in direct opposition to English syllabification.


There are many fine recordings of Poulenc mélodies , including those made by Poulenc as accompanist to Pierre Bernac. Likewise, there are several multi-disc complete recordings of Poulenc’s vocal output, including one featuring as authoritative a Poulencian as Gerard Souzay. The current recording, though, will provide very pleasing listening for those already familiar with the classic interpretations, and will be a rewarding introduction for listeners beginning to explore Poulenc’s vocal literature.


FANFARE: Myron Silberstein
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Works on This Recording

1. Poèmes (2) d'Aragon by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 3 Minutes 47 Secs. 
2. Bleuet by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 2 Minutes 53 Secs. 
3. Banalités: no 4, Voyage à Paris by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 0 Minutes 55 Secs. 
4. Montparnasse by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941-1945; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 3 Minutes 2 Secs. 
5. Banalités: no 2, Hôtel by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 1 Minutes 58 Secs. 
6. Poèmes (3) de Louise Lalanne by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
7. Ce doux petit visage by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 1 Minutes 41 Secs. 
8. Main dominée par le coeur by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 1 Minutes 19 Secs. 
9. Tel jour, telle nuit by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936-1937; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 11 Minutes 22 Secs. 
10. Vocalise, for voice & piano, FP 44 by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: Modern 
Written: 1927 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 3 Minutes 12 Secs. 
11. Fiançailles pour rire by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 11 Minutes 57 Secs. 
12. Fancy by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 1 Minutes 36 Secs. 
13. La courte paille by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Eugene Asti (Piano), Sophie Karthäuser ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 9 Minutes 23 Secs. 
14. A sa guitare by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
15. Léocadia: Les chemins de l'amour by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Sophie Karthäuser (), Eugene Asti (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; France 
Date of Recording: 06/2013 
Venue:  Siemens-Villa (Herrenhaus Correns). Berl 
Length: 3 Minutes 31 Secs. 

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