As it happens, I have been moderately familiar with the music of Cecile Chaminade for a number of years, so perhaps I can give anyone curious but uncertain what to expect some idea of what he or she will find on this disc. Chaminade seems to have been totally celibate her entire life. She eventually abandoned music for exhausting work as a hospital administrator in the first world war. Debilitation due to this cause and, according to the sleeve note, to an excessively vegetarian diet led to her losing a foot through amputation, but she lived on until age 87, dying in 1944. Her musical style is in many obvious senses conservative. The harmonic advances of Debussy and Ravel, and even of Faure, find no echo in her work. The style is very French, and there may be some influence of Saint-Saens, but for me there are odd reminiscences of Berlioz, himself a lot more innocent in many ways than he liked to let on.
The 25 love songs here are, with only one exception unless my ears deceive me, in major keys. The only poet whose name is familiar to me is Ronsard, and the sentiments are chaste and asexual from start to finish. Despite that they manage to sound very Parisian and ooh-la-la. They are not pale and maidenly but full of high spirits and energy. There are no dark shadows even in the minor-key number, and not a hint of the worldly-wisdom of Jane Austen. The piano parts are boldly written and occasionally quite demanding, and there is also a violin obbligato in the Minuet. In addition we are given three violin/piano duos (one arranged by Kreisler) and three slightly larger works for two pianos, in which it would be possible to hear the idiom of Saint-Saens but not for certain.
Anne Sofie von Otter's expression in the photographs will tell you at a glance how she intends to go about the songs. Her voice is nothing like Piaf's of course, and the songs would not bring the house down at the Paris Olympia, but she gets as near to that style as artistic integrity allows. Her French sounds very good indeed to me, and she gives Chaminade everything she has got, all vivacity, extroversion and joie-de-vivre. Chaminade seems to have nothing to regret either.
The other artists distinguish themselves thoroughly. The feel of enjoyment about this recital comes through as strongly from Bengt Forsberg's vigorous and dexterous piano-playing as from the singer herself. The violin parts are done very well, joining in the general mood, and there is a fine sturdy contribution on the second piano from Peter Jablonski. Everything about this disc delighted me from start to finish. The recorded sound is just about ideal for the purpose, and even the liner note is very good. Full texts of the songs are of course provided, with English translation and German Uebersetzung. One of the songs proclaims `Je voudrais etre une fleur'. It's a bit late now, but I sometimes wonder whether innocence doesn't have more to be said for it than we are vectored into believing in these enlightened days.