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Berlioz: Herminie, Les Nuits D'ete; Ravel: Sheherazade / Veronique Gens

Berlioz / Orchestre National Des Pays De La Loire
Release Date: 06/26/2012 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1200   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hector BerliozMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Véronique Gens
Conductor:  John Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Loire National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is an absolutely wonderful program. Of course Les Nuits d’été and Shéhérazade are old discmates, most famously on an outstanding disc featuring the late, great Régine Crespin. A dramatic soprano, Crespin’s voice was quite a bit larger than the comparative lightness and purity of Gens, but these songs aren’t Wagner, and each soloist does the music full justice in her own way. Especially in Les Nuits d’été, which isn’t really a song cycle, Gens and conductor John Axelrod team up to produce a performance that actually makes you forget that the work consists of two quick numbers enclosing four long, droopy ones. “Absence” and “Au
Read more Cimetière” seldom have sounded more flowing and purposeful.

Gens’ deft handling of the poetry also pays major dividends in the long first song of Shéhérazade, a travelogue that all too easily degenerates into a sort of impressionistic, French version of “I’ve Got A Little List”. Not here, with Gens conveying an unexaggerated feeling of wonderment, ably seconded by Axelrod’s colorful accompaniments. The brief concluding songs, “La flûte enchanté” and “L’indifférent”, are sexy but not smarmy, beautifully capturing Ravel’s delicately etched vocal lines. I can’t help but think, despite wonderful performances by non-French singers (Ely Ameling especially), how much it helps to have a native speaker take the part.

However, what makes this disc particularly desirable is the presence of Herminie, an early cantata by Berlioz that’s almost always passed over in favor of the more popular La mort de Cléopâtre. Herminie is not only a very enjoyable work in its own right, but it begins with a tune that’s nothing less than the “idée fixe” that later found a home in the Symphonie fantastique. The tune returns in the middle section of the aria “Arrête! Arrête! Cher Tancrède”, where it becomes an accompaniment to the vocal line (sound sample). As with everything on this program, the work is compellingly sung by Gens and conducted with conviction. The engineering is also excellent, with Gens’ voice captured with truly striking naturalism. Highest recommendation.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Les nuits d'été, Op. 7 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Véronique Gens (Soprano)
Conductor:  John Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Loire National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1841; France 
Herminie by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Véronique Gens (Soprano)
Conductor:  John Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Loire National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; France 
Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Véronique Gens (Soprano)
Conductor:  John Axelrod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Loire National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 

Sound Samples

Herminie: Moderato - Recitative: Quel trouble te poursuit, malheureuse -
Herminie: Aria: Adagio non troppo, "Ah! Si de la tendresse ou mon coeur - Recitative: Que dis-je? ou s'egarent mes voeux? -
Herminie: Aria: Allegro assai agitato, "Arrete! Cher Tancrede" - Recitative: Que Clorinde est heureuse -
Herminie: Aria: Allegro impetuoso vivace, "Venez, venez, terribles armes!" - Priere: Largo, "Dieu des chretiens, toi que j'ignore - Tempo I
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 1. Villanelle
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 2. Le Spectre de la rose
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 3. Sur les lagunes
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 4. Absence
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 5. Au cimetiere
Les nuits d'ete, Op. 7: No. 6. L'Ile inconnue
Sheherazade: No. 1. Asie
Sheherazade: No. 2. La flute enchantee
Sheherazade: No. 3. L'indifferent

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