Franck: Complete Songs & Duets / Graziani, Gens, Christoyannis, Cohen
Abundant though it is, César Franck’s vocal music (operas, sacred music, oratorios, mélodies) does not occupy a prominent place in the current repertory. His instrumental compositions – headed by the Violin Sonata in A major and followed by the organ works – represent virtually all that today’s audiences and musicians know of his output. Yet the mélodies and vocal duets, neglected by performers and publishers alike, deserve to be plucked from oblivion, both for their own sake and for their place in the history of French music. The alluring voices of Tassis Christoyannis and Véronique Gens immerse the listener in the atmosphere of the nineteenth-century Parisian salons and the mélodies performed there. The composer and organist César Franck, famed for his instrumental music, proves himself equally skilled in setting poems by Musset, Hugo, Chateaubriand, Daudet and Dumas. This first complete recording of his works for voice and piano ranges over his entire creative life.
Of Franck’s overlooked works, probably none are more so than his mélodies (songs). Now, with this new release, Bru Zane provide what is described as the first complete recording of Franck’s works for voice and piano. This collection of 22 mélodies and 6 duos range throughout most of Franck’s compositional life, commencing in 1843 when he was just out of his teens with Robin Gray and Le Sylphe through to 1889 with Les Cloches du soir and La Procession written close to the end of his life. For his melodies, Franck elected to set French texts headed by Victor Hugo with six and also François-René de Chateaubriand, Alphonse Daudet, Alexandre Dumas, Joseph Méry and others.
Bru Zane has entrusted this Franck collection to Greek baritone Tassis Christoyannis and American pianist Jeff Cohen...Christoyannis shines throughout for his reliably warm and appealing tone coupled with the responsive accompaniment from Cohen.
In the set of 6 Duos Christoyannis is partnered by renowned French soprano Véronique Gens who also sings a single mélodie...Her voice remains in outstanding condition and dependably attractive, displaying a special gift for expression. Written in 1888 the 6 Duos, settings of text by five different writers, best evokes the atmosphere of the Parisian salon in the Belle Époque. Christoyannis [has] ease of delivery and Gens[,] engaging charm...
Sound engineer Matteo Costa has achieved splendid clarity and balance between singers and piano. It’s hard to fault the presentation of Bru Zane releases and this album is no exception. In the accompanying booklet there are a pair of essays Another side to César Franck by Alexandre Dratwicki and The Songs and Duets of César Franck by Jean-Philippe Navarre. There is also detailed and helpful information given for each of the twenty-eight songs/duets together with several reproductions of artworks and documents of the period. The French texts provided with English translations alongside are invaluable.
Beautifully performed, recorded and presented, this album of the complete Songs and Duets of César Franck is an appealing addition to the catalogue.
--MusicWeb International (Michael Cookson)
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Catalog Number: BZ2003
Label: Bru Zane
Number of Discs: 2
Composer: César Franck
Performer: Véronique Gens, Tassis Christoyannis, Jeff Cohen