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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 23 February 2017
On of THE great Berlioz revordings ..... haunting stuff!
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on 28 March 2015
Another all time great CD for my collection. What a ravishing voice? Never tire of hearing this disc.Many thanks.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 8 January 2008
I'll risk being shot down in flames for criticising this much-reviewed and often-praised version of Berlioz' wonderful song cycle and Ravel's "Sheherazade" (plus other Poulenc songs not much to my taste). I really do not think it is as good as some say and I am heartened to find that David Cairns - as famous and trustworthy a critic of the voice as you can get - agrees with me in "Song on Record", edited by Alan Blyth. First of all, Crespin is often rather imperious and detached in manner; secondly, the essential tone of her voice is not either perfectly pure or steady: it often has a rather strained, scratchy, grainy or gritty quality which is not at all pleasing when compared with the warmth and roundness of singers such as Janet Baker, Eleanor Steber or Frederica Von Stade. All bring more emotion and beauty of tone to their interpretations; Steber's performance, in particular, is transcendent. I bought this record in great expectation and ultimately gave it away because I found I did not want to listen to it when I could hear those other artists. So there; I'll stick my neck out and say caveat emptor; listen before you buy, and if you like her - well, fine, but I'd recommend several performances before this one and I speak as one who loves great voices and thinks this the finest of all song cycles.
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on 29 September 2007
Well, after all these years, Crespin's Scheherazade still leads the field. Her voice is absolutely right for this cycle, from the glorious moment in the first song, when the orchestra erupts at her third cry of "Asie!", to the wonderfully enigmatic and ambivalent tone she adopts for the final song "L'Indifferent". She is superbly seconded by Ansermet and the Suisse-Romande Orchestra.There have been may excellent versions of this cycle, but Crespin's air of suave sophistication is perfectly suited to it, as it is to the Poulenc songs with piano included on this reissue. So why only 4 stars? Well, I know this is going against the grain, but I have never found this version of "les Nuits d'Ete" as satisfactory as it's coupling. Crespin's civilised, cool singing, to my mind, never engages with the songs as deeply as do singers such as Baker (with either Barbirolli or Giulini), De Los Angeles, Eleanor Steber and, more recently, Brigitte Bailleys. Contrary to the previous review here, I find no "hush and trembling anticipation" in "Le Spectre de la Rose", but rather find the rose's arrival from paradise somewhat earthbound. Any of the other singers I mentioned sing with greater abandon and radiance. The most successful of the songs is the final "L'Ile Inconnue", in which she finds just the right mixture of the playful and the passionate. That said, this is a disc I would never want to be without. Sheherazade alone makes it a must for any library.
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on 8 January 2013
Of course some fine singers over the years have attempted the Nuits d'ete, but it is not just a matter of the voice. The brain behind the sung line has to be French to capture the style and the atmosphere of Berlioz's music and just as importantly, Gautier's ravishingly beautiful, ever so decadent poetry.

Regine Crespin owned this music in 1966, if you want to avoid the inseparable quirks and the certain age of the sound, stylistically speaking, that goes with a great performance from this time (incidentally the golden age of stereo sound, with a warmth and naturalness from Decca you are unlikely now to find with modern digital recordings and their approximate sound world) but nonetheless admire French singers in their native language, you may wish to seek out the Francoise Pollet/Stefan Sanderling recording on the small French label Arion, which is a magnificent and perhaps more probing performance than here. I would say it is Pollet who has inherited Crespin's artistic legacy here and stamped her own personality on these supreme examples of the orchestrated art song.

Born in Marseilles, trained in the great schools of Brussels and Paris (as was Rita Gorr, another great singer - hear her in Samson with Jon Vickers on EMI) supreme diva in the City of Light. Look no further for the ultimate interpretation of this work and the accompanying Ravel cycle Sheherazade with its erotic overtones. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande (the strings heavily over miked as was the Decca way with this orchestra to give a rich creamy orchestral background to Crespin's finely nuanced singing) support is again authentically French and and in total sympathy with the soloist and music.

Those who carp about Crespin's wayward interpretation should listen to the last verse of Absence, where words and music are combined in singing of profound emotional depth worthy of Gautier's poetry. I personally feel that Frank Patterson's recording of this heart wrenching song and the curiously happy and mercurial (the only one!) Villanelle song, the "light" Irish tenor's interpretation on the Colin Davis version is a delight in the latter and overwhelmingly profound in the former song of loss. (Patterson is anything but "light"!)

The key to the success of this performance and recording, as with Pollet and which is brought out admirably in Patterson's contributions on the Colin Davis/Philips recording, is recognising the orchestrated song as a song and not half way towards a concert aria. The voice should be used instrumentally following a clear arching melodic line with the utmost smoothness and clear meaningful ennunciation of the words. Gautier's lyrics and the overall sensibility is undoubtedly the finest in the whole literature of the orchestral song. To my mind Crespin, Pollet, and Patterson are the only singers I have come across who do full justice to that sensitivity.

Berlioz's exquisite delicate orchestration is another factor....even Ravel comes up short compared with Berlioz's command of instrumental colour.

I have now given up looking for an ideal version of this iconic summit of L'art Lyrique and have assembled my "own" performance from available recorded versions, as follows:
1. Villanelle Frank Patterson (Colin Davis/Philips)
2. Le Spectre de la Rose Francoise Pollet (NOTE! with Sanderling, Orch. Bretagne/Arion 2003)
3. Sue la Lagune Regine Crespin (I could easily go with Crespin in 2 also! Ansermet/Decca)
4. Absence Crespin (Ansermet/Decca)
5. Au cimetiere (Clair de Lune) Frank Patterson (Davis/Philips)
6. L'ile inconnue Regine Crespin
Of all the competing versions available only of Francoise Pollet could one say she could do it as lying within her expressive range and vocal resources, but her two recorded versions (I personally prefer the one with Stefan Sanderling and the Orchestre de Bretagne) sound a tad over wrought and laboured compared with the divine Crespin. They do however knock the likes of Baker and Steber into a corner. One sounds like an English matron, the other has a declamatory style that soon wears out the listener's ear drums. Both are tedious performances, especially the Steber, poorly recorded. The Victoria de Los Angeles performance is that of a girl not a woman.
Finally, if you do purchase this CD there is also the EMI DVD of Crespin in recital, which includes, among fine lieder singing, an excerpt from the Berlioz cycle, Le spectre de la rose. It gives one a chance to share in Crespin's stage presence and her ability to communicate the meaning of the words.

This is the vocal art as it should be and once heard provides the measure by which you will surely judge other performances and indeed other singers! Not for nothing did Crespin shoot across the world's opera stages and concert halls as a super star.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 December 2006
The Crespin version of 'Nuits d'Ete', old as it is, is as good as you can get in quite a strongly competitive field. She had a big and very beautiful voice and an ability to project the line and words of a song quite rivetingly, especially in French repertoire. She makes the 'Nuits' sound like the most beautiful orchestral song-cycle ever written ; maybe it is! The hush and trembling anticipation in 'La Spectre de la Rose' have to be heard to be believed. Equally, her voice was agile and flexible where necessary, so the livelier songs are just as good. The recording is excellent and the accompaniment good. The other songs are equally well served, and there should be no hesitation in sampling this CD. It is quite an event.
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on 14 April 2015
Superb voice.
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on 13 April 2011
I only needed a couple of the songs, but Sur les Lagoons and Absence are the wrong way round on this set - so beware!
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