Apart from flutter and bluster, this is divinely beautiful.
Ingrid Heyn | Melbourne, Australia | 05/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 3CD recording presents a very substantial part of Debussy's vocal works. It's full of the most superb and mysterious songs you'll ever hear. Debussy had such a marvellously unique harmonic approach, and it gives the impression of mist and mystery, of the insubstantial and unearthly. This makes those songs which feature characters of the Italian commedia d'arte (Harlequin, Pierrot, Columbine, etc.) so astonishing, and his songs of the beauties of the night and the moon so very beautiful.
The songs are almost entirely of a very high standard, and show how well Debussy knew the voice. (In my opinion, he particularly knew the virtues of the typical light high French soprano voice, and I can certainly attest that the majority of his songs lie beautifully and very comfortably in the soprano coloratura voice.) Occasionally there's a song that isn't of that typical high standard (the peculiar but very early song "Rondel chinois" comes to mind - it's a lovely thing to sing, but it's not a song of any distinction), but most of these are perfect gems.
The singing on this set varies a little. On the plus side is the ever-beautiful Elly Ameling, who had perhaps the most limpidly beautiful light lyrical soprano voice the world has ever heard; the amazing Frederica von Stade, who sings divinely; Michele Command, whose more robust soprano voice is often stunning; the experienced baritone Gérard Souzay (I have to admit I do not like his voice myself - his timbre and approach are not to my taste - but he is certainly very experienced in this genre and his French is so beautiful to listen to)... and on the not-so-plus side (for me, anyway) is the coloratura soprano of Mady Mesplé. I know there are devoted fans of Ms Mesplé - I must admit I am not one of them. While I admire the glorious ease of her top notes, and the young and attractive sound of the voice's natural timbre, I LOATHE what is to me an unbearable fluttering vibrato that ruins her singing. It sounds extraordinarily under-supported and very uncomfortable - but I also admit that Ms Mesplé clearly has a deep feeling for these mélodies. She certainly knows how to phrase - and certainly the range of her voice is remarkable. If only that twitter could be magicked away... then I'd probably be very satisfied with her singing.
Overall, then, this set is a charming and well-chosen array of almost all of Debussy's vocal output. It is not complete, though. I would recommend supplementing this delightful 3CD set with the recording of Debussy songs by Sandrine Piau, the somewhat bland but extremely pretty recording of Debussy's early songs by Gillian Keith, and the recording of Debussy songs sung by Anne-Marie Rodde (again, so very pretty, and it is one of the few recordings to include Debussy's duet "Chanson espagnole" - which is otherwise represented quite hideously on a recording by a tenor and baritone).
There's also some amazingly beautiful singing of Debussy songs on an album by Christine Oelze (her timbre reminds me so much of Ameling's - just lovely, and what excellent French!).
I have not listened to Dawn Upshaw's recording of Debussy songs, as she is not one of my favourite singers, but given that I've enjoyed her French performances in the past, I do plan to add her recording entitled "Forgotten Songs" to my collection.
And with all of that lot, you, the Debussy collector, will have a truly wonderful collection of Debussy's songs to hand!"
Fabulous compositions, moments of great performing
barbc01 | Bemidji, MN USA | 08/07/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This compilation is a fantastic resource for singers and colaborative pianists everywhere--and no one will argue with the beauty of Debussy's compositions.
Gerard Souzay seems like he's just going through the motions on all of his tracks; Elly Ameling has fabulous technique as always, but there is something wanting; Mady Mesple gives a great (if not heartfelt) performance. The standout performance on this disc is of the Ariettes Oubliees, as performed by Frederica von Stade. Beautiful, and the emotion is there.
I would recommend it for any singer's library. I do, however, hesitate to give it 5 stars and recommend it to everyone because the emotion just isn't there through many of the tracks--and Debussy without emotion is like bread without yeast--flat."
A Great Tribute to Debussy's Melodies
snbkremer | Findlay, Oh United States | 11/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set of cds is a must for anyone interested on performing any of Debussy's melodies. It really helps to listen to these to learn the pieces, as the singers are supurb and perform the songs with great artistic interpretation."
Another master craftsman of the French Chanson
debonair | 3rd Rock, Milky Way | 11/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent companion to the glorious Faure Melodies, also from EMI. After listening to the Faure Melodies, I was really eager to hear more raw compositional genius pored into the duets between piano and voice, all with a foreground of French poetry and romaticism as technical as it is sublime. The voice and text are the foci. However, the piano is prominent as well. Debussy's dominance of the piano is readily apparent here as some of the passages just took my breath away in their deceptive simplicity.
Souzay, Ameling and Baldwin also sang on the Faure Melodies. They are completely solid here as well. I can not recommend this set enough for fans of any combination of the French language, French poetry, Impressionist music and the power of the human voice."
Lee Wallace | At The Bottom of a Curry, USA | 11/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Of all of the collections of Debussy vocal music that I have owned, traded, and borrowed, this is the version that I have become most dedicated to. Other reviewers have made valid critical comments about the vocalists' styles, accents and so forth, all things to bear in mind I suppose. For pure listening pleasure, however, this CD set has been the winner for me. There are moments where the singing does seem slightly "modern" and probably not historically accurate for a century old piece, but somehow I feel as if Debussy himself would be fine with this. His music, particularly much of this vocal music, is so forward looking that it practically beckons the new. Sonically the recording is sweet - a good amount of natural room reverberation and well balanced piano sound that never intrudes. I never tire of hearing this CD, for many weeks it played endlessly in the CD changer and I have returned to it many times."