In OMBRES, the new BIS release, the French lyric soprano Laetitia Grimaldi teams up with the Israeli-South African pianist Ammiel Bushakevitz to bring out of obscure neglect twenty-two mélodies by nine French female composers.
The songs range from the quintessentially Romantic cantilena of all five of the songs of Mélanie Bonis that begin the album, to the lively-in-tempo Villanelle of Cécile Chaminade, to the exoticism of settings by Pauline Viardot-Garcia of texts of several Russian poets.
Among the composers featured in this recording, Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Cécile Chaminade are fairly familiar to those who love French salon music, while the names of Armande de Polignac, Marguerite Beclard d’Harcourt, Mélanie Bonis, Hélène-Frédérique de Faye-Jozin, Juliette Folville, Gabrielle Ferrari and Augusta Holmès are most surprising discoveries. The lyricists – French poets for the most part- are as unfamiliar as the composers save for the name of Victor Hugo.
In lesser hands, this assemblage of esoteric pièces d’occasion conceived for the artistic salons of 19th century Paris during the days of the Belle Époque could wear thin after one too many songs permeated with the same perfumed laid-back languor. Yet here, with a voice that could melt the hardest of hearts, an absolute command of the French style, flawless idiomatic pronunciation, and immense musicality, the results that Laetitia Grimaldi serves up in good company with Ammiel Bushakevitz, her perfect partnering pianist are simply extraordinary.
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