I was sorry to read somewhere that the great French singer Gerard Souzay, who owned the role of Golaud in Pelleas et Melisande, has largely been forgotten. For anyone who wants just one CD of melodies francaises sung with a rare mixture of passion, musicianship, and authority, this midprice release would be my choice. Souzay came of age in the Second World War, training at the Paris Convervatoire during the Nazi occupation, but almost the minute that peace was declared his talents were recognized. A student of philosophy in college, he was a thinker's singer, like Fischer-Dieskau, and the two greatly admired each other. Like F-D, Souzay had a lyric baritone, but he used it with more poise and delicacy. Also like F-D, the timbre of the voice is instantly recognizable.
These selections are all mono recordings from 1950 to 1952, in very good sound with little or no distortion at loud volume. Souzay had two accompanists during his long career - he sang until 1988 - and the one heard here, Jacqueline Bonneau, is very fine (even though Souzay built a sizable discography in stereo for Philips and ventured successfully into German lieder, his later accompanist and life partner, Dalton Baldwin, was not a first-rate musician). Many of the most familiar melodies of Faure, Debussy, and Ravel are included in this generous collection of thirty songs, and they became Souzay's favorite composers, a perfect fit for his seductive, sinuous, smooth delivery. He is equally appealing in Chausson and Duparc; a scattering of orchestral arrangements are also included. I was transported back to an era of elegant French singing now long vanished.