African-American-Swedish soprano Barbara Hendricks formed her own label, Arte Verum, at the point in her life where the careers of most operatic sopranos begin to slow down. The move was a smart one; Hendricks has been able to release new albums of song repertory on her own schedule, working with longtime accompanist Love Derwinger, and the results have been consistently impressive. When this album was released in early 2014, Hendricks was 65, and it has been rare to find a vocal instrument as well preserved. French song lies at the heart of Hendricks' concert repertoire, and it is no surprise to find her delivering strong performances: she can shift gears with exquisite facility between the exotic strains in the tradition, represented here by Ravel's Chansons madécasses, Op. 78 (Songs from Madagascar) and the dense, involved meeting grounds between the late 19th century French song and contemporary poetic developments, as heard here in the Fauré cycle La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61. These are the sort of thing that put people off of Fauré, for in lesser hands than Hendricks' they can come out leaden. Not a bit of it here. To paraphrase a line from John le Carré, French is Hendricks' second language and sometimes her first, and the delivery of these songs has the elusive natural quality that makes them tick. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61|
|Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé|
|Chansons Madécasses, Op. 78|