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Brahms: Chants d'amour

The WholeNote
25 octobre 2016

The 18 charming, sweet and sentimental love songs that populate Brahms’ first Op.52 Liebeslieder Waltzes were completed in 1859. With four-handed piano accompaniment debuted by himself and his secret (albeit unrequited) love Clara Schumann, they pay homage to the city of Vienna, incorporating the Ländler style throughout. Due to the popularity of such amusements for “house music” he followed with another set, the Op.65 Neue Liebeslieder in 1874. The majority of the texts come from Polydora, Georg Friedrich Daumer’s collection of folksongs and poems. They explore infatuation, longing and the many joys and disappointments that go along with them. They are both a pleasure and a challenge to sing, with soft heartfelt passages punctuated by some rapid-gunfire tongue twisters.

Though sometimes performed by choirs, the songs are most expressive when sung by a quartet of soloists. Soprano Kimy McLaren, mezzo Michèle Losier, tenor Pascal Charbonneau and bass-baritone Alexandre Sylvestre all deliver superb and emotionally dynamic performances as the lovestruck foursome with pianists Myriam Farid and Olivier Godin beautifully augmenting the undercurrents of their turbulent emotional states.

Diane Wells - The WholeNote


Le Devoir
9 septembre 2016

Ce programme à la composition parfaite voit deux cycles vocaux, les Liebeslieder Walzer, opus 52 et les Neue Liebeslieder Walzer, opus 65, encadrer les Valses pour piano à quatre mains de Brahms. Le coefficient de sympathie qui émane de ce disque de jeunes artistes d’ici chantant le coeur du romantisme germanique n’est cependant pas corrélé à un impact sur la discographie. En d’autres termes, le CD très plaisant, réalisé avec soin et engagement, ne peut se mesurer aux références du marché, tel l’enregistrement de Petersen, Doufexis, Güra et Jarnot (HM) qui trouvent, avec davantage de luxe vocal, le juste rebond des phrases brahmsiennes. Cette parution donne cependant une piste à creuser : le duo féminin Kimy McLaren-Michèle Losier a le niveau qui lui permettrait d’envisager un programme de duos moraves, autour de Dvorák, qui aurait une portée plus internationale. 

Christophe Huss - Le Devoir

Opera Obsession
4 septembre 2016

Summer weather is beginning to transition into that of fall, which means it's time for me to transition from French to German art songs as my default listening of choice. Perfect for this lazy, enchanted, in-between period has proved a new recording of Brahms waltzes, here identified as Chants d'Amour. Inexplicably, I have struggled in the past to come to grips with the Liebeslieder Walzer, but this rendition was light and seductive, yet not without its core of seriousness and melancholy. (If a song cycle doesn't have a core of melancholy, I'm rarely interested.) Here, Op. 52 and Op. 65 bracketed the four-hand waltzes of Op. 39. It doesn't feel overstuffed or overlong as an album; tempi are often faster than I've heard elsewhere, without feeling rushed. I found the collaboration of the musicians impressive throughout.

The performance felt like a cohesive, elegant whole, rather than the production of a chance-encountered collection of soloists. Myriam Farid and Olivier Godin provided lucid and sensitive piano-playing throughout. Variations in dynamics and tempo felt organic rather than forced, providing interest and helping to define the shape of the cycles. I appreciated the rich variety of romantic expression Farid and Godin found, from brio to wistful reflection. The singers, too, were accomplished in this regard; all Canadian, they all sang with excellent German.

The bright, flexible soprano of Kimy McLaren led stylishly. Predictably, though, I was specially delighted by the multifaceted mezzo of Michèle Losier. I found myself repeatedly and pleasantly surprised by Losier's incisive use of text and the depth and nuance of her vocal coloration. Pascal Charbonneau provided a sweet-toned tenor and notably lovely phrasing. His partnership with baritone Alexandre Sylvester on "Sieh, wie ist der Welle klar" was a particular delight. "Wenn ich ein hübscher kleiner Vogel wär" was another highlight, performed with charm, grace, and an eminently danceable tempo (yes, I tested it.) The potentially kitschy "Am Donaustrande" was given with welcome subtlety, and a seductive lilt. "Nein, es ist nicht auszukommen mit den Leuten" was also very satisfying, with both bite and humor. The dreamier and more melancholy Neue Liebeslieder Walzer were no less thoughtfully crafted; McLaren's and Losier's "Nein, Geliebter, setze dich" was a favorite. The album is highly recommended; preferably for listening to with a Riesling and nothing particular to do.

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