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Release Date: Friday 8 March 2019
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Ernest Chausson is a most unusual figure in French music, positioned at the crossroads where the romanticism of Berlioz and Franck meet the language of Wagner and the symbolism of the young Debussy. His Poème de l'amour et de la mer is a unique score for the period and certainly his greatest work; simultaneously a profane, naturistic cantata, a monologue, and a song cycle, it was composed between 1882 and 1892 to poetry by Maurice Bouchor, a longstanding friend of Chausson. (Already in 1886 its final section, 'Le temps des lilas,' was published on its own as a song for voice and piano).
Véronique Gens is recording this cycle for the first time, although she has already issued 'Le temps des lilas' with Susan Manoff at the piano for her disc Néère (ALPHA 215), about which Ernst Van Bek wrote in Classiquenews: 'Chausson's "Le temps des lilas" mesmerises with the nuancing of its colours, the allusive precision of every sung word: this ecstatic, depressive prayer represents another peak of French post-Wagnerianism. The song uninterruptedly expresses the profound, accursed languor of overcharged spirits. The tact and sense of style that Gens displays, is proof of her remarkably acute understanding of the veiled references.'
Clément Taillia, in Forum Opera, spoke of 'all the art of a song that desires to express itself…' Véronique Gens' talent is equally on display in this recording too, with the Orchestre National de Lille - an orchestra she already knows well - under Alexandre Bloch, its new chief conductor, whose appointment and first concerts and recordings have already caused a sensation. We can confidently predict that these two artists will be collaborating again in the near future… The Symphony in B flat major completes this programme: a summit of French symphonic writing, for some a milestone as important as the Symphony in D of Chausson's teacher César Franck!
"A performance that ranks, unquestionably, among the finest to date. Superbly sung, and wonderfully well conducted and played by Alexandre Bloch and his Lille orchestra, this is an interpretation of great beauty and insight. Gens's dark tone and her ability to fuse sound with sense allow her both to encompass the work's rapturous lyricism and to map out the psychological subtlety of its depiction of the painful end of an affair." Gramophone Editor's Choice June 2019
"Gens's crystalline sound and immaculate diction are a bonus in these sumptuous settings of poems by Maurice Bouchor...The Symphony is more seldom recorded (or programmed live), but benefits here from Bloch's idiomatic sense of drama and evocation of atmosphere…Superb" Sunday Times
"Like the best performers of song, she sings in a straightforward manner, no with pecking, swooping or breathiness. Her diction is crisp and allow us to enjoy the poetry of Maurice Bouchor. A gem of simplicity and elegance. Gens is aided by Alexandre Bloch's conducting, which is well-paced and never over-indulgent, yet still seductive." Opera Now
"The composer's only symphony, in B flat, opens in bright, soaring mood, with a yearning slow movement and an "animé" finale that pulls all the work's ideas together. Perhaps it doesn't quite cut it as a masterpiece, but the Lille players and Bloch make a fluent, idiomatic case. The presence of Gens in the gorgeous Poème is the real draw here." Observer
1 Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19: I. La fleur des eaux
2 Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19: Interlude
3 Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19: II. La mort de l'amour
4 Symphonie en si bémol majeur, Op. 20: I. Lent - Allegro vico
5 Symphonie en si bémol majeur, Op. 20: II. Très lent
6 Symphonie en si bémol majeur, Op. 20: III. Animé