Véronique Gens - Berlioz Les Nuits d été
Washington Public Radio
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Véronique Gens has a new CD of music by Berlioz and Ravel. Her performance of Berlioz’ Les Nuits d été is extraordinary.
Les Nuits d été has always been one of my favorite works. There are many performances. But if I had to choose one forever, I would take this radiant performance from Véronique Gens.
There are several recordings I suppose I coudln’t live without, but listening to Gens sing this as I camp out along the Oregon Coast the music sounds as if she is part of the landscape and evening sky. Listening as I drive, Berlioz’ music moves with the motion of the car and thwrhythm of the sea whose waves gently wash the sandy shore.
What counts here also is the audio quality and audio production of the actual recording. Gens sounds in a space with the listener. The voice has a radiant, felt-like texture. Just the right type of vibrato, not too heavy but supporting the text and music, makes Gens’ vocal sound ideal for this work in which lightness and heaviness dance with each other for prominence. The singer can sound ethereal at one mooment and then switch into a full-voiced utterance. The French (as best as I can figure, my French is pretty slim) sounds perfect to me. Gens delivers the French language with its distinctive vowels and smooth word rhythms with the ease of a native speaker.
The instrumental sound is also have textured perfectly. You don’t just “hear” them, you feel them. The orchestral clarity allows you to hear the genius of the composer’s orchestration. You don’t just hear an orchestra, you really hear its different sections and instruments and the way Berlioz works with instrumental colors in his harmonic structure.
The singer, of course, .
John Axelrod is the conductor with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire. According to the statement at the Ondine Record site, his philosphy is being “open to the world.” That hits it right for this recording. Conductor and orchestra join with the singer in a perfect performance. When I say “perfect” I am not talking only about notes, but I mean the perfection of a magical journey by singer, conductor and players through Berlioz’ dreamscape.
Also at the Ondine website there is this description of the orchestra:
Founded in 1971, the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, a “national” orchestra since 1996, is based in two cities, in Angers and Nantes. Today about 200 concerts attract yearly about 200,000 listeners, among them more than 10,000 subscribers.
Based on this recording, I’m off to find more about this conductor and his orchestra. Just when I thought classical music was in trouble, I’m starting to hear some great new conductors.
The year isn’t half done, but I’m listing this now as my Grammy choice for best performance by a vocalist with orchestra.
Tom Manoff – Washington Public Radio