Mélodies Passagères is a new CD from Montreal based duo soprano Marianne Lambert and pianist Julien LeBlanc. Toronto folks may remember the latter as the music director/pianist for Against the Grain’s Pelléas et Mélisande a few years ago. The selection of songs; by Barber, Bizet, Delage, Delibes, Granados, Lavallée, Massenet and Paladihle, is intended to evoke escaping, journeying, dreaming and sensuality and it does that pretty well. Most of the pieces are not particularly well known though there are a few chestnuts like Bizet’s Les adieux de l’hôtesse Arabe and Délibes’ Les filles de Cadix.
I particularly liked the Barber pieces which provide the title for the CD. The writing for both voice and piano is interesting; the latter spare but incisive. It sounds quite modern, not very American and there’s not a hint of Broadway. This is modern art song of the highest quality. The five songs are very nicely performed too. Leblanc navigates the tricky piano part well and Lambert shows a voice of considerable flexibility and sweetness of tone; even in her upper register, except when pushing really hard (more of an issue on a couple of the later pieces than the Barber).
The rest of the disk is mainly made up of the Delage Quatre poèmes Hindous and the Granados Canciones amatorias. Both sets are quite interesting with some opportunities for vocal display in the Delage (Lambert is a coloratura soprano) and quite a showy piano part in the Granados.
It’s all nicely done and it’s good to see a recording of some not so often heard pieces; especially the Barber. The mood though does reflect the theme faithfully and listening to the whole thing front to back is perhaps a bit too much like lying under a lotus tree all day. Best taken piece by piece perhaps?
The recording, made late last year at La Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur, Montréal is clear and well balanced and the disk comes with full texts with English (and French where appropriate) translations.