Outstanding reissue label Dutton Labs here brings us the second disc of legendary Swiss-born French baritone Charles Panzèra in its Singers to Remember series. Although he did perform in opera, most notably Debussy's Pélleas et Mélisande, Panzèra is primarily remembered as one of the truly great interpreters of French art song. On Fauré Songs, Panzèra is heard in a generous selection of 23 songs, seven drawn from the tiny, but central, repertoire of Henri Duparc and the rest owing to the more substantial output of Gabriel Fauré. In every selection, Panzèra is partnered by his wife, pianist Magdeleine Panzèra-Baillot, who knows her husband's singing well and follows his phrasing at every turn with a sensitive, artistic, and unobtrusive accompaniment.
Panzèra recorded often, and well, but the vagaries of French recording technology and the hostile surfaces on which French 78s were usually pressed tend to compromise his legacy. Dutton Labs seems to have solved the problem in these noise-free, well-balanced transfers. Some of these 1930s vintage recordings have been restored so well they could almost pass for something recorded in the 1960s; the main exception being the Fauré Poême d'un Jour, Op. 21, recorded in 1927, where it appears that the Panzèras were a bit off-mike. This is none too surprising, as microphone technology was so new in 1927 that many engineers did not know what to do with one. Producer Michael Dutton has wisely chosen to apply a very light reverberation to these selections, not so great as to drown the music in artificial ambience, but mainly to take the edge off what are very dry and bright French recordings. No English texts are included, but there are very useful and well-written notes by Alex Bruce. One could hardly desire a more satisfying historical account of French art song from a male singer, and as Dutton's Singers to Remember series is at mid-price, Fauré Songs will far from break the bank.