In his gentle mélodies, Venezuelan-born, French-naturalized Reynaldo Hahn fully embraced the Romantic tradition of Gounod, Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Fauré, all but ignoring the compositional trends of a new wave of French composers eager to break new ground – Chausson, Duparc, Debussy, and the member of Les Six, even when he lived well into the fifth decade of the 20th century.

In his delicately wrought À Chloris, Le rossignol des lilas, L’énamourée, Infidélité, and Les fontaines – all faultlessly sung by the immensely gifted Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill – Hahn establishes himself as an elegant craftsmen of melodies with a talent for setting texts to music.

The Hahn songs provide a perfect introduction to Karen Cargill’s album Fleur de mon âme for the LINN label, which, enhanced by the participation of the fine collaborative pianist Simon Lepper, take the listener on a musical journey through Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, Ernest Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle, Sérénade italienne, Le charme, Le colibri, and Les papillons; and Henri Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage, Chanson triste, Extase and Phidylé.

Members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Maya Iwabuchi, Xander van Vliet, Tom Dunn, and Aleksei Kiseliov provide a splendid string quartet accompaniment to two of the songs: the rare Calmes, aux quais deserts of Belgian composer Joseph Jongen, and Chausson’s familiar Chanson perpétuelle.

Throughout eighteen exquisitely-sung tracks, Karen Cargill displays uncommonly clear French diction, and uncompromising devotion to the text of the songs though never at the expense of clear vocalism. Above all Ms. Cargill remains serene of utterance and always in command of her ample vocal resources.

The album is clearly engineered and accompanied by an informative booklet filled with insights and intelligent translations.

Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS