Chanson d’Amour by Sabine Devieilhe & Alexandre Tharaud
In Chanson d’Amour, heavenly-voiced Sabine Devieilhe takes us on a journey to France, via the music of Fauré, Ravel, Poulenc and Debussy. I know her best as an opera singer possessed of a stratospherically high vocal range, and on this occasion Devieilhe impresses with her middle-register, and her intelligent approach to art song. Alexandre Tharaud is Devieilhe’s sensitive associate artist, whose fingers make light but brilliant work of the piano accompaniments.
Favourites are offerings from Poulenc – a composer whose music straddles both the ridiculous and the sublime. ‘Voyage à Paris’ is set to a few lines of doggerel by Apollinaire, who contemplates how delightful it will be to leave a dismal place for Paris, a city created by love. I am transported to Paris every time I hear this song, just as I am to the maison close Apollinaire describes in ‘Hotel’: ‘my room forms a cage, as the sun passes its arms through the window. I smoke for the sake of making shapes with the vapour, and I light my cigarette with the sun’s fire. I don’t want to work, I want to smoke.’ Poulenc’s music is aptly languid, brought to life by Devieilhe’s divine and finely spun voice. I challenge anyone to keep up with the goings-on described in ‘Fêtes Galantes’ – the commuters rushing by on their bikes and in their cars, the children playing, the haves and the have-nots – as Devieilhe swiftly reels off the text in her immaculately clear French.
Fauré’s music offers a more darkly romantic perspective of France. His hypnotic ‘Les berceaux’ takes on a youthful colour in Devieilhe’s voice, the clarity of her tone belying the sadness of the women who wait patiently for sons and husbands out at sea, perhaps never to return. A delicious selection of 29 enchanting French mélodies.