Marianne Fiset / Louis-Philippe Marsolais / Michael McMahon

Ophélie

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The use of a horn to accompany songs is so felicitous that it's surprising it's rarely heard on vocal recitals, but more and more repertoire is turning up on disc, beyond the classic pieces like Schubert's Auf dem Strom and Berlioz's Le jeune pâtre Breton. This collection of songs that includes a part for horn features Romantic music as well as one newly written piece. In addition to the Schubert and Berlioz there is a generous selection of songs by 19th century Italian, French, German, and Austrian composers. Dirti addio, a concert aria by Donizetti in which the horn and soprano are equal partners, not surprisingly, sounds operatic. The horn's range and heroic, lyrical timbre make it a natural stand-in for a tenor, so the piece has the character of a duet. It's a real charmer that makes the horn and soprano sound fabulous together, and deserves to be better known. Other standout works include a set of four songs by Carl Gottlieb Reissiger, recorded here for the first time, that have a folk-like quality without slipping into predictable clichés or cloying sweetness. The songs by Gounod, Franz Lachner, and Richard Strauss are relative rarities, but are musically substantial enough to merit broader exposure. Ophélie, a setting of a Rimbaud poem written for this album by Canadian composer Denis Gougeon, is lyrical and impressionistic, but fails to leave an especially strong impression. Soprano Marianne Fiset's voice is secure, focused, and expressive, and it suits this repertoire well. Québécois horn player Louis-Philippe Marsolais has an exceptionally sweet, pure, clarion tone, and he plays with impeccable technique and musicianship. Pianist Michael McMahon provides sensitive accompaniments. This appealing release should hold strong interest for fans of Romantic song and music for horn.

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