For most of us the ideal French baritone has been defined in terms of the heady, fragile, sometimes overly sensitive singing of Pierre Bernac, Martial Singher, Gérard Souzay, and Bernard Kruysen. That is changing now with the introduction of Stéphane Degout to that inner circle. He is a singer with a magnificent voice who understands the intimacy of salon songs and how to seduce an audience with this very special genre of music.
This CD represents the continued concert performances of Stéphane Degout with his constant collaborator at the piano Hélène Lucas. Degout first met pianist Hélène Lucas when he entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon in 1995.She soon detected the young singer's qualities and introduced him to the world of the mélodie and the lieder, and Stéphane gave his first recitals of this repertoire with Hélène Lucas as accompanist. The two are simpatico as we would expect after touring this particular set of songs throughout Europe. One critic has remarked `Degout's abundant musical gifts, his intelligence and integrity, resurrect, as no other performance I know, the sights seen, the emotions felt, by the wild and vagabond poet of the 15th century. They are as alive and present as the man who sings them.' This is indeed true of every composer whose songs he has elected to include in the generous (74 minutes) sampling of the French repertoire.
The works included on this recording are as follows:
Chabrier: L'ile heureuse, Chanson pour Jeanne, Les Cigales
Debussy: La mer est plus belle, Le Son du cor, L'échelonnement des haies, Trois Ballades de François Villon
Duparc: Le Galop, Lamento, Élégie, La Vie antérieure
Hahn, R: Trois jours de vendange, Cimetière de campagne
Ravel: Histoires naturelles (5)
Saint-Saëns: Au cimetière (Mélodies persanes), Tournoiement `Songe d'opium' Op. 26, No. 6
While there are many sopranos and mezzo-sopranos who emphasize the French repertoire, few men incorporate these perfumed works into their various recitals. It is now hopeful that Stéphane Degout will resurrect the tradition of his famous forebears. Grady Harp, February 13