Sandrine Piau / Julien Chauvin

Si j'ai Aimé

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Soprano Sandrine Piau has been known mostly as a Baroque specialist, but she has recorded several albums of 19th century French mélodies (art songs) with spectacular results. Si j'ai aimé (the title comes from one of three songs by the little-known Théodore Dubois) will be very hard for her to outdo. The list of attractions is very long and begins with the repertory. There are some familiar pieces here, such as the opening pair of songs by Saint-Saëns, but many of the composers -- Dubois, Charles Bordes, Alexandre Guilmant -- are rarely performed, at least outside France, and all the songs here are top-notch. Then there's Piau's voice, which is at its absolute peak, soaring and ethereal, yet with a layer of experience of the romantic and sexual themes in the texts. The conducting work by Julien Chauvin, leading the group Le Concert de la Loge, captures the intimacy that makes the mélodie come alive. Last for now (although the list could go on), is the use of historical instruments; they are not terribly far removed from modern ones in time, but they add a gauzy smoothness that brings intensity to the nostalgic tone of the texts. It's a small group, and it gives a very uncanny feeling of bringing the original presences of the songs into the world once more. Sample anywhere, but for a seduction anthem, try Guilmant's Ce que dit le silence (What Silence Says). Alpha's engineers, working in the small Metz Arsenal auditorium, are simply nonpareil here. A magnificent recording.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 03:42
2 03:23
3 03:29
Les Nuits d'été, H 81
4 05:16
5 03:32
Album pour mes petits amis, Op. 14
6 01:59
7 02:48
Les Nuits d'été, H 81
8 01:59
Musiques Sur L'Eau
9 03:13
Trois Mélodies, Op. 11
10 01:31
11 04:44
12 03:13
Chansons de Marjolie
13 02:44
14 03:39
15 03:38
16 01:53
Symphonie Gothique, Op. 23
17 05:44
18 02:48
blue highlight denotes track pick