PAYSAGE • Susanna Phillips (sop); Myra Huang (pn) • BRIDGE 9356 (54:06 Text and Translation)
Songs by Debussy, Fauré, Messiaen
Susanna Phillips has been singing professionally for at least 5 years now and it is a wonder to me that she hasn’t already been recorded, this being her first recital disc. She has the voice and talent that quite likely will get her to the top of her profession sooner rather than later, all theRead more potential makings of a major artist. So the Bridge label has had the perspicacity and the good fortune to debut her on CD, and they have another winner here.
Phillips sings an all-French program, from the 19th-century lyricism of Gabriel Fauré to the more tonally ambiguous (as the booklet puts it) work of Claude Debussy and the modern sounds of Oliver Messiaen, who created his own otherworldly soundscape to express the mystic and religious nature of his own texts. The three composers are not presented in that developmental order; the rather musically complex songs of Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées put both singer and pianist to work right away with the composer’s Impressionistic music. Phillips is expertly accompanied on piano by fellow Juilliard grad Myra Huang; Opera News opines that she “bids fair to be among the top accompanists of her generation.” The rather spiky dissonance of Messiaen’s song cycle Poèmes pour Mi is presented next, providing an even greater artistic challenge for both artists, and they respond admirably. Four lovely pieces by Fauré finish the program, allowing Phillips to display her fine voice and ability to add colors in more lyrical passages.
If Phillips’s French is not idiomatic, it is still quite good. Three different French styles are heard here and the singer does them all justice, but some of this music is not for the faint of heart. Timing is a bit short at about 54 minutes, but gets excused because of the fine music-making of both Phillips and Huang. A well-written and informative essay on the music by Malcolm MacDonald is included in the booklet, as are texts and translations.