FˆETE GALANTE • Karina Gauvin (s); Marc-André Hamelin (pn) • ATMA 2642 (65:33 Text and Translation)
FAURÉ Mandoline. Clair de lune. Aurore. En Sourdine. RAVEL 5 Melodies populaires grecques. DEBUSSY Fêtes galantes. 3 Chansons de Bilitis. POULENC Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Métamorphoses. 2 Poèmes de Louis Aragon. 3 Poèmes de Louis Lalanne. HONEGGER Saluste du Bartas. VUILLERMOZ Chansons populaires françaises et Canadiennes
This is my first exposure to Karina Gauvin’s voice, and it was a revelation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that EMI, who is pushing Measha Brueggergosman as its Canadian soprano du jour, has signed the wrong artist, for Karina’s voice is everything that Measha’s is not: perfectly steady, well placed, focused, and even in scale from top to bottom. Moreover, Gauvin is a master of vocal coloration, an art I thought was lost to us forever in this modern age of vocal conformity and cookie-cutter tones. I asked to review this CD simply because I’ve long been a fan of the accompanist, Marc-André Hamelin, and he does not disappoint, though I found his piano tone less sensuous and less locked-in to the particular feel of each song as well as Alfred Cortot, but there is no denying that their partnership here is a fine one. Gauvin supplies the color and animation that Hamelin sometimes underplays in these songs.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Gauvin is the finest French soprano I’ve heard in many a decade. Her voice somewhat resembles a smaller-scale, more soprano-ish version of Rita Gorr, and that’s saying a lot. She is also unusual among French sopranos of my acquaintance in that her full, rounded, unforced upper range is complemented by an unusually rich, plummy, yet equally unforced lower register, all of it seamlessly bound from top to bottom with no break or sense of strain regardless of volume level or expressivity. Her interpretations of Debussy’s Fêtes galantes and Trois Chansons de Bilitis remind one of the legendary recordings of Maggie Teyte, but with a voice of considerably more power and coloristic resources. Teyte did admirably well with a small voice of limited resources, bringing as much out of it as she could. Gauvin has an entire rainbow to play with, and as a consequence one hears the full palette in this recital.
The sequence of selections is well chosen and gains in interest from the inclusion of Poulenc, Honegger, and Vuillermoz, whose work Teyte did not record. In the Poulenc, Gauvin proves her artistry and versatility by compressing her tone, producing a brighter, more pointed sound in the fast, light passages that enlivens the musical progression wonderfully well. In “C’est ainsi que tu es” she adopts an almost conversational tone that is completely appropriate for this song, yet not forgetting to arch her phrases with a judicious amount of portamento when needed. How on earth she manages to sound both pointed and sensual in “Paganini” is beyond my comprehension, but she does it, and that’s all that matters. She can also adopt a haunting, floated tone of the most exquisite beauty, again, perfectly integrated into her technique, as for instance in Poulenc’s “Hier.”
This is an artist of extraordinary ability, voice, and artistry. She seems incapable of singing anything inexpressively or badly. If you enjoy French chanson, you simply cannot pass this one up.
Beautiful recording of French songMarch 12, 2014By Les S. (Albany, NY)See All My Reviews"This is a wonderful recording of songs by several French composers. Both the singing and piano accompaniment fit the music perfectly. By chance, I heard a live radio broadcast of "Messiah" on New Year's Day and Karina Gauvin was the soprano soloist. I had never heard of her, much less heard her sing, and I was so impressed that I sought a recording. Her instrument, musicianship and musicality are all of the first order. The nuances of French art song are particularly difficult to capture but this recording is an excellent sample of the ineffable qualities of these works."Report Abuse