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Penguin Guide, January 2009

CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne 8.557491
CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne (selections), Vol. 2 / Chant de France / Triptyque 8.570338

Véronique Gens, one of the finest French singers of her generation, with her fresh, finely projected voice gives performances of this generous selection of the Chants d’Auvergne that bring out the folk qualities far more than usual. Gens gives them an authentic French timbre, whether in the melismatic phrases of Baïléro, always a favourite item, or the vigour of the two sets of Bourrées. Jean-Claude Casadesus conducts the excellent Lille Orchestra in similarly idiomatic performances, atmospherically recorded. To fill out the second disc, Gens includes six excerpts from the Chants de France, another winning collection derived from folk material, and also the Triptych, three memorable and original settings of the poems of Roger Frêne, rather in the style of Chausson. Full texts and translations make this a genuine bargain.




David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, March 2008

My colleague Dan Davis raved about Volume 1 in this series, and I find no reason to question his judgment. Read full review at ClassicsToday



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, December 2007

With this second volume devoted to Chants d’Auvergne, Naxos now gives us all of these priceless songs as collected, harmonized and orchestrated by Joseph Canteloube (1879–1957). Whereas Janacek, Bartok and Kodaly’s interest in folk music was subservient to their own musical creations, Canteloube spent less and less time writing original works, preferring to pursue folk related projects. These resulted in vocal arrangements like what we have here.

Born in the Auvergne region of central France, he was a student of Vincent d’Indy, and obviously learned his lessons well as evidenced by the imaginative, colorful accompaniments we hear on both discs. In fact he managed to transform these simple folk ditties into some of the most beloved vocal repertoire of the twentieth century.

Published in five books that date from 1924 (first and second), 1927 (third), 1930 (fourth) and 1955 (fifth), they’re sung here in their original dialects by soprano Veronique Gens, who is also from the Auvergne. Highlights include the gorgeous Bailero (a shepherd’s song) [volume-1, track-2], humorous Malurous qu’o uno fenno (Unfortunate he who has a wife) [volume-1, track-14], catchy Te, l’co te (Run, dog, run) [volume-2, track-8] and capricious He! beyla-z-y dau fe! (Hey, give that donkey some hay) [volume-2, track-9]. Hearing them, you’ll find yourself totally refreshed as if you’d just come from a pastoral retreat. There’s a folk quality about Gens’ voice that makes her performances among the best, particularly with the exceptionally sensitive accompaniment provided by the Lille National Orchestra under conductors Jean-Claude Casadesus (volume-1) and Serge Baudo (volume-2).

The second volume is filled out with some of Canteloube’s other efforts in this genre. Triptyque (no date given) is based on three poems by Roger Frene from 1914. These beautiful, highly chromatic settings show that when he wanted to be, Canteloube was an extremely accomplished composer in his own right. His music reveals the influences of Chausson, Debussy and not surprisingly, D’Indy.

The disc closes with six selections from his collection Chants de France (no date given), which represents a return to the country. It includes songs from other regions of France once again done in picturesque arrangements by this master folk colorist. The first of these, Aupres de ma blonde [volume-2, track-13], will be familiar to all, while the second, Ou irai-je me plaindre [volume-2, track-14], and fourth, Delicieuses cimes [volume-2, track-16], are exquisite vocal petits fours. Gens delivers stunning performances of all nine of these latter numbers.

While the recording quality on both discs is quite good, Ms. Gens would have probably sounded even more fetching had something like Ray Kimber’s remarkable IsoMike been used.

One last thought. As with all folk music, different performers can turn the same song into an entirely new listening experience. So you might want to also hear one of the legendary recordings of these Auvergnian delights as sung by the great Israeli soprano, Netania Davrath. She’s featured on a Vanguard Classics album (ART-1189), which contains fifteen additional songs from the same area not included on the Naxos discs. Canteloube only set these to piano accompaniment, but they’re done with full orchestra in arrangements by Gershon Kingsley.




Gramophone, December 2007

A setting of three poems by Roger Frêne, its lush, not to say extravagant orchestration anticipates Canteloube’s later folksong settings. The influence of both Ravel and Debussy is obvious, maybe also Stravinsky (it was, after all, the year of The Rite of Spring). The first section, “Offrande à l’été” is an ardent love song, with some pretty giddy scoring for harps. The central “Lunaire” has a more mysterious, yearning feel, with a lovely little dissonance at the word “cendre”, as the poet imagines the leaves turning to ash. The finale, “Hymne dans l’aurore” is an ecstatic prayer to Pan, celebrating every wonder of nature. The final cry, “Mon âme s’ouvre ainsi qu’une aube étincellante! O Pan!” is marked in the score crescendo en grandissant, and Gens, Serge Baudo and the Lille Orchestra rise to the moment with splendid force. It is really surprising that this work has not become better known; any soprano wanting to look beyond the obvious repertory should welcome it.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2007

Though Joseph Canteloube composed extensively in a wide range of genres, I suppose history will describe him as ‘the composer of the Chants d’Auvergne’. He was born in 1879 in the south of the Auvergne, and as a young man persuaded old farmers to sing him their songs which he notated. It was a random rather than organised attempt at collecting their music, but over the years he had built up a healthy collection that required harmonised accompaniments. At times he was too tempted to elaborate the song’s backdrop which compromised him as a serious folk music collector, but as a listening experience there is no denying the seductive beauty of his scoring, or his ability to capture fun in music. His formal education was completed in Paris which later provided the stimulus to collect songs from other regions, here exemplified in six songs from Chants de France, a series that moved away from the rusticity of the Auvergne. But it was in the Triptyque, three exquisite song settings from 1914, by which he can stand comparison with the greatest songs of Chausson and Ravel. This is the second and concluding disc in the complete Chants d’Auvergne from Veronique Gens, and in every sense she has the left the best to the last. Turn to track 3—Pour l’enfant—and have your ears seduced by the most creamy smooth singing you will have ever heard, and though I love her pert approach to the humorous songs, it is the pure delicacy that I treasure most. She has with her Serge Baudo whose ability to create subtle colours is legendary, and he draws from the Lille Orchestra a flow of sound that is surely among the most beautiful ever captured on disc. He never rushes tempos but allows the music to unfold in unhurried loveliness. Add to that the ideal sound engineering and you have a fabulous release.






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8:07:01 AM, 3 September 2014
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