French composers, it seems, always had a fascination with birds. As far back as Clement Janequin's famous Chant des oiseaux to the twentieth century's Catalogue d'oiseaux by Oliver Messiaen, birds always exerted their spell on the French musical scene. Prime examples are Rameau's Rappel des oiseaux, Couperin's La Linotte, effarouchee and the celebrated Carnival des animaux by Saint-Saëns. In all truth, the whole of the animal kingdom has long been the subject and sourced inspiration for artists and musicians alike, particularly the latter lot, whose imaginations became more vivid as the centuries rolled by. Whether voicing their affection and awe or mocking the human animal, composers have adulated our furry and feathered friends by creating masterpieces of invention, musical mimicry and wit.
Listen — Bizet: La Coccinelle
(track 22, 0:00-0:54) © 2018 harmonia mundi musique sas :
Ducks, peacocks, pigs, butterflies, dromedaries, carp, cicadas and owls are just some of the creatures in the menagerie assembled for this recording. And what about the composers? Well, this collection groups together a veritable wellspring of French musical talent of the last two hundred years. When you have the likes of Rossini, Lalo, Ravel, Poulenc, Fauré, de Severac, Chabrier, d'Ibert, Satie, Hahn, Bizet, Chausson, Debussy, Offenbach and Viardot, can you ask for more?
Listen — Pauline Viardot: L'Oiselet
(track 24, 0:00-0:54) © 2018 harmonia mundi musique sas :
Soprano Sophie Karthäuser interprets this quintessentially French Bestiary with an expressive inflection that relaxes as much as it immerses the listener into this appealing animal domain, that is after all, a reflection of human behaviour. Indeed her voice is at times rather mischievous.
Listen — Chabrier: Ballade des gros dindons
(track 33, 2:20-3:08) © 2018 harmonia mundi musique sas :
Pianist Eugene Asti gives sympathetic support all the way through.
Listen — Ibert: Le Petit Âne blanc
(track 15, 1:43-2:23) © 2018 harmonia mundi musique sas :
This is not a curate's egg, but an issue which is interestingly curious, and one that sheds some very important light onto the several hidden byways of French song. Catchy presentation and some top-drawer sound complete a very fine addition to the genre's catalogue.
Copyright © 21 April 2019