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CD Review

La Belle Époque

Songs of Reynaldo Hahn

Susan Graham, soprano
Roger Vignoles, piano
Sony 60168 62:15
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Reynaldo Hahn was an elegant gentleman-about-town in Paris, a friend of Proust and at home in the most fashionable salons, and he also wrote some of the most lyrical and beautiful of all French songs. I have always thought that their subtle relationships of words and music came best from native French singers – Ninon Vallin, for instance – and the English soprano Susan Graham doesn't really prove me wrong. What is missing in her performances is the crisp definition of consonants that is needed to make the lyrics more than merely an opportunity to spin a fine vocal line. But having said that, Graham is an intelligent singer with a lovely voice (better than Vallin's), easily and evenly produced, and she can float pure, sweet tones as well as anyone, as she does in the exquisite "Tyndaris," the tristesse of "Je me souviens," and the haunting beauty of "L'Heure exquise." Roger Vignoles is a fine accompanist, and again the sound is excellent.

Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin

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