Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), December 2012

The Best Classical Recordings of 2012

Véronique Gens is internationally recognized as one of today’s great sopranos. She has made a career with Baroque repertoire and Mozart, but French repertoire, especially Berlioz and Ravel, are “as natural to her” as the air she breathes. The charismatic conductor John Axelrod has been music director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire since 2009. © 2012 WFMT (Chicago)

WETA, December 2012

This new album features fresh performances of fairly well-known works; Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été, joined by the Loire National Orchestra, conducted by John Axelrod. There’s also a performance of a relative rarity, and this recording may be a step in moving this early cantata by Berlioz into wider recognition. © 2012 WETA Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, December 2012

On a previous disc, also a Recording of the Year, former baroque specialist Veronique Gens ventured into the 19th century world and sang Malheureux Roi from Berlioz’s Les Troyens marvellously. On this new disc she further explores his music and comes down with a disc that challenges the former hegemony in Les nuits d’ètè: Regine Crespin and Janet Baker. As a bonus we also get the rarely heard Herminie. © 2012 MusicWeb International

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, November 2012

The most compelling reason to purchase this CD is Herminie, which has not been recorded as often as the other two works. Stylistically, Herminie has much in common with La Mort de Cléopâtre…Both feature rather clunky texts by Pierre-Ange Vieillard, which nevertheless inspired Berlioz to fitful heights. Both works provide good opportunities for sopranos who can make themselves a little larger than life. Véronique Gens…is just such a singer…Gens may have earned her wings in the Baroque repertory, but with each passing year she shows that her voice and her temperament are no less suited to music from the 19th century. She works hard to make Herminie as effective as it can be.

There’s nothing wrong with her . Her readings of [Nuits d’été and Shéhérazade] are mature, dignified, intelligent, and impeccably sung…Gens is well suited to the music and she does not disappoint…

John Axelrod, an up-and-coming young conductor, acts like an experienced pro here, never putting his foot (or baton) wrong…he conducts with plenty of atmosphere and control. The orchestra…understands the style that this music requires, and is responsive to Axelrod… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Sudie Marcuse
American Record Guide, November 2012

It is a testament to the extraordinary versatility of soprano Veronique Gens that she can encompass the scenery-chewing dramatics of Berlioz’s cantata Herminie, the subtle intimacy of the song cycle Nuits D’Ete, and Ravel’s lushly exotic Sheherazade, all with uncompromising emotional commitment and unfailingly gorgeous tone.

…this is one of the loveliest and most moving performances I have heard. The orchestra supports her with lively, flexible tempos and brilliant instrumental color, for a thrilling and deeply satisfying performance. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review

David Shengold
Opera News, November 2012

The disc opens with Berlioz’s second Prix de Rome attempt, Herminie (1828). Gens gives the piece the dignity, fire and vocal sheen it deserves and is well accompanied by Axelrod’s players. Gens offers a worthy, musicianly reading, certainly—perhaps best in the lightly handled “L’Indifférent”…the high quality of execution and expression evident in the Berlioz works make this CD highly recommendable. © 2012 Opera News Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, September 2012

Veronique Gens is a singer who always delivers well-conceived readings of whatever she takes on. She has a marvellous voice, she is French, which is an advantage in French repertoire, and her coupling is a work that doesn’t appear too often, either in concert or on record…All in all this ‘mini-opera’ is a splendid achievement and the disc is worth buying for these 22 minutes alone. This recommendation implies that the interpretation of the cantata is also first class. Having seen Veronique Gens in opera I was well aware of her capacity as an actor, both visually and vocally, and this comes over splendidly here.

Sonically this new Ondine has some advantages over the competitors which were recorded 45–50 years ago. Anyway: to the top duo Crespin and Baker must now be added Véronique Gens. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Richard Fairman
Gramophone, September 2012

After three successful volumes of ‘Tragédiennes’, Véronique Gens follows in the great line of French-speaking sopranos by committing to disc the time-honoured coupling of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and Ravel’s Shéhérazade…she is a singer of the middle ground—warm, sensitive, the lyrical French soprano par excellence.

How beautifully the ‘Spectre de la rose’ dances its ghostly waltz here, the flowing speed perfectly judged by John Axelrod to give the rhythms a lift and allow Gens to phrase the poem in unbroken sentences with total naturalness. A convincing argument is made for pacing the whole cycle swiftly…Gens is completely satisfying. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Hurwitz, July 2012

This is an absolutely wonderful program…each soloist does the music full justice in her own way. Especially in Les Nuits d’été, which isn’t really a song cycle, Gens and conductor John Axelrod team up to produce a performance that actually makes you forget that the work consists of two quick numbers enclosing four long, droopy ones. “Absence” and “Au Cimetière” seldom have sounded more flowing and purposeful.

However, what makes this disc particularly desirable is the presence of Herminie…Herminie is not only a very enjoyable work in its own right, but it begins with a tune that’s nothing less than the “idée fixe” that later found a home in the Symphonie fantastique. As with everything on this program, the work is compellingly sung by Gens and conducted with conviction. The engineering is also excellent, with Gens’ voice captured with truly striking naturalism. Highest recommendation. © 2012 Read complete review

Winnipeg Free Press, July 2012

Berlioz never came closer to the intimacy of chamber music than his popular six-song cycle Les Nuits d’été with texts from Théophile Gautier. Two buoyantly youthful songs flank the four at the cycle’s core…

Soprano Véronique Gens captures the classically poised moods perfectly, never over-ecstatic and with a delicately nuanced partnership from the orchestra that makes one feel as if his or she were eavesdropping on some very personal happenings.

Ravel’s Shéhérazade is more sumptuous an experience, of course. Gens’ soaring yet yielding voice finds every colour and Axelrod is again on the same page, with flawless instinct in layering the orchestra’s multifaceted role. Berlioz’s rarely heard cantata Herminie contains the first use of the famous idée fixe theme from his later Symphonie fantastique. It’s an effective scene of far-away love, beautifully done and highly recommended. © 2012 Winnipeg Free Press Read complete review

Christie Grimstad, July 2012

By far, the velvety evocations expressed by Véronique Gens are extraordinary. At first blush, it’s obvious her tessitura sits comfortably inside the scores, but it goes beyond that…her incalculable dynamics, immaculate diction, formative verve and lyrical intensity facilitate in raising Berlioz’s and Ravel’s music to new heights. Because of this natural fit, it is the sole purpose for the recording.

Herminie jumps starts with an attention getting “Introduction” with groundings of pulsating strings that quickly segues into a declamatory recitativo secco dialogue, evincing Gens’ rich timbre. Her arias are enthralling, passionate and very persuasive. The second aria harkens moments of Les Troyens; the composition is mighty and infectious.

“Riveting” aptly describes Ms. Gens’ approach to Les Nuits d’été, a pithy ten sectioned song cycle covering miles of textural discoveries: wispiness, fluttering chatter, pensiveness, lamentation, yearning, somberness, sorrow and hope. Véronique Gens achieves charismatic magnetism tenfold.

Gens provides instantaneous connect with the sensuous music, building upon a reminder of how a singer can stir up such confluence of ethereal élan. Shéhérezade is a colorful story with Far East mystique, filled with expedient Ravelian trapping…

Focused and distinguished, Véronique Gens accomplishes refined enlightenment, and it is well collected by Ondine. Well tenured with sophistication, detail, complexity and ardor, it’s no wonder Véronique Gens made these morsel choices for she stimulates the palate with savory results. Par excellence. © 2012 Read complete review

Norman Lebrecht
La Scena Musicale, July 2012

This performance may be the nuits d’été de nos jours, a sumptuous exploration of Berlioz’s great set by a soprano who has emerged from Baroque tweeting into the romantic big time. The accompaniment by the Orchestre National des Pays de Loire under John Axelrod is exemplary. © 2012 The Lebrecht Report/La Scena Musicale, June 2012

The beauty of Véronique Gens’ soprano is immediately apparent in her new recording of Berlioz and Ravel—repertoire with which she has not been closely associated, since she is known mainly for her work with Baroque music and Mozart. But she acquits herself beautifully here, her rich, expressive voice and faultless pronunciation making all three works on this Ondine CD as emotionally and musically involving as they can be. The Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under John Axelrod provides supple and idiomatic backup throughout, making this a CD filled with delights. © 2012 Read complete review

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group