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Debussy: Songs [CD]

Christopher Maltman , Malcolm Martineau , Claude Debussy , None Audio CD

Price: £15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product Description

Poèmes de Baudelaire - 3 Mélodies (Verlaine) - Fêtes Galantes - Ballades de François Villon - Nuit d'étoiles - Fleur des blés - Voici que le printemps - Mandoline - Les angélus - Romance - Les cloches / Christopher Maltman, baryton - Malcolm Martineau, piano

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-felt and superbly-sung performances of Debussy songs 13 Feb 2003
By Vincent Lau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
While French art songs seem to be less popular with music lovers and have received less academic attention that the German Lied of say Schubert, Schumann, Brahms or Wolf, in my view, when they're handled sensitively and in the right way (the genre is notoriously elusive), many of the songs are musically evocative and imaginative and are no less deeply-felt creations than their German counter-parts.
However, I'd so far only listened to French songs sung by female singers like Claire Croiza, Maggie Teyte, Veronique Gens and Christine Schafer such that the performances by baritone Christopher Maltman on this new release of Debussy songs by Hyperion represents the first time I heard French songs sung by a male voice. Without having the benefit of accustoming myself with the acclaimed recordings of French (including Debussy) songs by, say, Francois de Roux, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and, above all, Pierre Bernac, I can't say if the singing of Maltman, winner of the Lieder Prize in the 1997 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, can fully convey the beauty and truth of the 21 Debussy songs included here, which are more or less arranged in order of publication from¡§Nuit d'etoiles¡¨to the¡§Trois Ballades de Francois Villon¡¨and can therefore show very clearly how the composer's vocal and instrumental styles have morphed from 1880 through 1910 ¡V a remarkable journey in its own right. However, I must say that Maltman's vocalism is superb and it is worthwhile to have this recording for such refined and technically accomplished singing alone. The singer's attention to detail is also impressive for he is able to colour his voice in myriad of different ways, often within the same phrase, and his honeyed pianissimo singing (even in a high register) as well as the exquisite way by which he executes a diminuendo are veritable object lessons on how these should be handled. His singing also has the requisite power and heft when needed, as in¡§Cinq Poemes de Baudelaire".
Since I have not listened to that many recordings of these songs, I won't be commenting on whether Maltman's interpretations are fully idiomatic or not. However, his singing is always heart-felt and natural sounding, and while he may not be as close to the composer's intentions as Croiza, as charming as Teyte or as sensuous as Gens, I actually felt more moved by the music when listening to Maltman's accounts, which appear to be emotionally deeper-etched in certain ways and more "down-to-earth" (in a positive sense). In any event, my feelings towards this music are certainly quite different from the case when these songs are being interpreted by a female voice, which appear to be the more usual alternative in the record catalogues.
Malcolm Martineau provides sensitive support on the piano, although I found the tone of the instrument to be a little strange (somewhat muffled in a resonant way in some, but not all, of the tracks). Otherwise, this is, to me at least, a very enjoyable recording. One can also find in the CD booklet an excellent essay on the songs by Roger Nichols, artist biographies as well as the full texts (with English translation). The presentation is exemplary.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lovely wood-timbred baritone, but poor French marrs the melodies 21 May 2006
By Ingrid Heyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
There is a golden rule for singing French melodies (I dare not use accent markings on Amazon anymore - they are incorrectly encoded in the execution): that rule is... pronounce the French correctly.

Of course there is a great deal more to it than that, but if one doesn't meet this simple and basic rule, all the rest is virtually wasted.

Unfortunately, Christopher Maltman's French is not of a sufficiently high standard to make his rendering of these melodies an unmitigated delight. It's a pity - the voice itself is pleasant, with an attractive timbre like a quite dark oak patina, but le pronunciation is impossible to ignore. I'm bound to say, also, that the interpretation of the pieces seems rather blustery at times, rather than delicate or robust as may be called for. The melodies themselves are so beautiful, and I adore hearing good baritones singing the French song repertoire, which is why I purchased this recording. Malcolm Martineau is a fine accompanist, but he cannot make up for the somewhat unsatisfactory vocal performance.

The basic vocal material is good. This is no doubt why he has impressed in previous recordings, but I am flabbergasted to read that his recording of Schumann's Dichterliebe was considered "superbly executed" (Grammophone) and that he "leaps in a single bound into the fronk rank of Lieder interpreters today". German Lieder require the same sort of detailed word-painting which was so very ABSENT from this recording of Debussy melodies. As Christopher Maltman is so experienced a performer, it's not even a case of my hoping he will develop and mature further as an artist. One presumes that Mr Maltman has already gone through such a process. As a result, I cannot hope that his future performances will show a development in interpretation that will allow him to sweep in finer brush-strokes - I must regretfully say I shall not be tempted by future recordings of this singer.

I cannot unequivocally recommend this CD, unfortunately. I'd have liked to give it 3 and a half stars, but the lack of interpretative quality and the poor French make it impossible for me to give this recording 4 stars... so 3 it must be.

Alternative recommendations: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's exceptionally fine recording of Liszt Lieder; Poulenc Complete Songs (incl. the excellent Gedda and often good Souzay); Debussy melodies sung by Sandrine Piau... Debussy melodies sung by Elly Ameling (occasionally accented French, but what an exquisite sound)... Debussy melodies sung by Christiane Oelze; French chansons and melodies sung by Rachel Yakar who is a consummate interpreter. These are extremely beautiful recordings indeed, and any serious collector of recordings of French melodies needs to own them. For those who just want some beautiful 19th century French vocal music, these alternative recordings mentioned are also very highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile Debussy song collection 22 Jan 2012
By jt52 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Let me start off this review with an alert for Debussy fans out there: the Trois Melodies on Verlaine poems is a major Debussy piece. Debussy has been one of my favorite composers for decades now and I wasn't even aware of the existence of the Trois Melodies, which date from 1891, until I purchased this Christopher Maltman album. These three songs are on the level of the Estampes or orchestral Images, to benchmark them. They are captivating and powerful and have been a major discovery for me, and a lesson yet again that incredible music is out there, almost unknown and waiting to be found.

This album is worth purchasing just for the programming prowess that went into including the Verlaine melodies, as well as fine individual items like "Les angelus" and the Fetes Galantes II. Maltman also has included one of Debussy's later cycles, the "Trois Ballades de Francois Villon" from 1910, which I found less attractive. So I strongly recommend you get this CD if you are a fan of Debussy or classical songs.

Maltman has a great, very rich baritone voice and delivers a terrific performance here, across the album. I do have some nits, which is why I rate the release 4 stars. The accompanist, Malcolm Martineau, is a long-time vocal accompanist with an impressive resume, but his work is uneven here. I found the accompaniment to the "Baudelaire Poemes" problematic and underrehearsed, for example. The recording is multi-miked and I thought the sound staging confused, with the piano over mixed. Finally, Maltman at times can experience issues singing outside of his normal range, as in "Colloque sentimentale" from the Fetes Galantes (track 18), where the melodic line falters as the line falls below Maltman's range.

Still, this is a "must-get" for the right kind of listener, due to Maltman's generally very-good interpretation and the unusual, yet very well-judged programming.
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