To the already converted, Ninon Vallin's entry in Dutton's Singers to Remember series might seem like preaching to the choir; her singing, particularly in the French literature that made her name, embodies perfection. Vallin had a beautiful, strong voice, marvelously on pitch, combining an innate sense of both pacing and projection of lyrics; her diction was splendid. Vallin's instrument served her well for a long time; the recordings featured on Singers to Remember: Ninon Vallin range from 1928 to 1943 and Vallin's recording career began in 1911. Even in the late end of this spectrum, when she was 55, the strength is there, even though the pitch is beginning to show some variance from the absolute truth it knew in 1928. Although her recorded output was extensive, Vallin seldom got to record the literature she preferred -- mainly French art song and Spanish songs -- and she was always battling the French record companies to get such material on wax, as they had their own priorities to fulfill.
Dutton wisely focuses on the material Vallin herself preferred, which translates to 16 chansons by Gabriel Fauré, three each by Henri Duparc and Reynaldo Hahn (with Hahn at the piano), and single items by Chabrier and Chaminade; a couple of her pop songs are thrown in for good measure. The transfers, however, are the kicker; while they might be a bit too constricted for Vallin's hardest core fans, for the average listener they are excellent, as the voice still maintains plenty of body while any sense of scratch in these historical recordings is invisible. It has even more vocal presence than even the reissues of Vallin made by EMI in the 1980s, yet is a little less "honest" than the Ward Marston transfers made of Vallin's Pathés of the late '20s; about the only noticeable flaw is the wavering pitch in Duparc's "Phidylé," the result of a badly calibrated turntable common to French disc recordings of many kinds. So this package may or may not appeal to Vallin's key audience, depending on what people already have and how attached they are to it. Nevertheless, for the average listener, Singers to Remember: Ninon Vallin is probably the place to start.