Salome Haller / Quatuor Manfred

Ernest Chausson: Poème de l'amour et de la mer

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Ernest Chausson took over a decade to complete his half-hour song cycle Poème de l'amour et de la mer, originally scored for high voice and large orchestra, and then arranged for voice and piano. His extended song Chanson perpétuelle was originally written for voice, string quartet, and piano, a combination so felicitous that pianist Nicolas Kruger, a frequent accompanist for Salomé Haller, commissioned Franck Villard to create a transcription of the orchestral cycle for the same chamber ensemble, and it's given its premiere recording here. The strings' capacity for sustained, lyrical lines and a timbral palette that come closer to that of the orchestral version make this an exceptionally attractive arrangement and a natural companion piece for Chanson perpétuelle. Both works are sumptuously romantic, drawing on the traditions of late 19th century French mélodies, Wagner, and the emerging innovations of the young Debussy, who was coming into his own around the time Chausson wrote these pieces and with whose work Chausson was familiar. Haller's full, warm soprano is well-suited to this repertoire and she brings an instinctive Gallic sensuality to Chausson's emotionally charged music. She is especially impressive in Chanson perpétuelle, for which her voice seems ideally situated, and she invests it with an expansive, rounded tone and a wistful melancholy. Kruger and Le Quatuor Manfred are equally invested in this urgently heartfelt repertoire and provide an atmospheric and idiomatically sensitive environment for the voice. In the String Quartet, Op. 35, a lovely and substantial work that the composer left unfinished at his death at the age of 44 and that was completed by Vincent d'Indy, Le Quatuor Manfred plays with the same nuanced intensity and highlights its kinship with Debussy's Quartet in G minor, written just a few years earlier. Zig Zag Territoires' sound is clean, present, and warmly ambient. These performances make a terrific introduction to Chausson's mature work, and the appealing transcription of Poème de l'amour et de la mer should interest any listeners who already love the composer's music.

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