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L'heure exquise

Marie-Nicole Lemieux contralto / Daniel Blumenthal - piano

Naive : V 5022 : 65 minutes

Recorded May 2005


Enesco Sept chansons de Clement Marot Op 15

Hahn D'une prison; L'heure exquise; Fetes galantes

Chausson L'Albatros; Le Chevalier Malheur Op 34 No 2; Apaisement Op 13 No 1; La chanson bien douce Op 34 No 1

Hahn Offrande; A Chloris; Five little songs on poems of Robert Louis Stevenson

Debussy Fetes Galantes II Gluckwunsch; Alt-Spanisch; Sterbelied; Gefasster abschied

Hahn Puisque j'ai mis ma levre; Trois jours de vendange; Quan la nuit n'est pas etoilee

Before receiving this CD my experience of Marie-Nicole Lemieux's rich contralto was confined to her recordings of baroque opera in roles (Vivaldi's Orlando and Handel's Unolfo) heavily reliant on the lower register and I was unsure how well this much lighter repertoire would suit her. In fact it fits like a glove, certainly mezzo territory holds no fears for her, and a really distinctive tone is beginning to emerge from this young French-Canadian singer.

It's also a very skilfully put together programme, Reynaldo Hahn is the sheet anchor, neatly alternated with other composers. Interestingly she gives us the Paul Verlaine poem that provides the title for the album in Chausson's setting as well as the more familiar Hahn, the contrast is subtle worthy of repeated listening. Songs in lighter mood are also neatly interspersed the Robert Louis Stevenson sequence is a real delight.

I have to declare that Victor Hugo is my favourite French poet, so little surprise that I most enjoyed the final item on this disc, Hahn's setting of Quand la nuit n'est pas etoilee but it's run a close second by the same composer's treatment of Stevenson's The stars truly there is a glittering starlight quality to Lemieux' voice and this is perfect late night music.

© Serena Fenwick