Patricia Petibon / Susan Manoff

La Belle Excentrique

(CD - Deutsche Grammophon #4792465)

Review by

French soprano Patricia Petibon is known for recordings with ambitious, original programs, spaced several years apart. This is one of her most ambitious, and one of her best, even if some might find it a bit outrageous. Petibon approaches the French art song of the late 19th and 20th centuries from the perspective of popular song, suggesting that the boundary is blurry (noncontroversial in itself), and adding a few songs by Léo Ferré, the vastly underrated older contemporary of Jacques Brel. Where things start to get wild is not with the inclusion of popular songs, or even with the heavy emphasis on the music-hall rhythms of songs going back as far as Gabriel Fauré. Rather, it's the forces and their shaping that startle: Petibon adds strings, accordion, and percussion to the music at will, connects songs with interludes improvised by the performers based on piano pieces by Erik Satie, several of whose works also appear in full, generally plays fast and loose with the musical text, all while circling through a variety of moods at the same time as she moves forward through time. For those looking at the track list and thinking that what they're getting is a set of French songs interpreted in the conventional way by a young soprano, steer clear. But for those open to it, this album is both revelatory and hugely entertaining, and it's a fair bet that Satie and Poulenc, at least, would have loved it.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
Sports et Divertissements
1 00:22
2 03:21
La Belle Excentrique
3 01:47
Chansons villageoises, FP 117
4 01:52
5 01:24
6 01:51
7 02:53
8 02:40
Melodies of 1916
9 02:01
10 01:20
Sports et Divertissements
11 00:25
12 04:05
13 04:17
La Belle Excentrique
14 02:03
15 04:17
16 01:11
17 02:01
Études latines
18 01:42
19 03:13
20 03:07
21 00:39
22 01:42
23 01:11
24 02:55
25 01:36
26 03:05
27 01:45
28 03:02
29 02:48
blue highlight denotes track pick