Sandrine Piau’s first recital for the ALPHA Label, with Susan Manoff, proved an enormous hit (Diapason d’Or of the year, Choc of the year, and Gramophone Editor’s Choice). Her new project is a recital with orchestra celebrating French songs from the period when they moved from the private salon to the concert hall. Planned in partnership with the Palazzetto Bru Zane, this programme evokes anticipation, desire, pleasure, memory, in short all the vagaries of love experienced by a romantic heroine. To verses of the poets Hugo, Lamartine, Gautier, and Verlaine, Sandrine Piau has selected song settings by Saint-Saëns (‘L’attente’, ‘Papillons’), Massenet (‘Extase’, ‘Aimons-nous’), and Vierne, as well as by the rarely-heard Dubois, Guilmant, and Bordes. Julien Chauvin and his period instrument ensemble combine these songs with orchestral pieces (the ‘Pavane de la belle au bois dormant’ from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, and Debussy’s ‘Danse profane’ for harp and orchestra). The album also presents excerpts from Nuits d’Été by Berlioz, and ends with the famous classic ‘Plaisir d’amour’ by Martini.
With her silvery tone, immaculate sense of line and telling if understated way with words, Piau is very much at home in this repertory. Chauvin and his orchestra are outstanding throughout, unearthing subtleties in music that is often quite simply but always effectively scored. It’s a most engaging disc.