I bought this CD with high anticipation. I've loved some of Christine Shäfer's singing, and expected her French to be good. (She certainly gives the impression of being a very intelligent singer.)
But I'm afraid I cannot unequivocally like this album. While there is much to admire in Ms Schäfer's voice, I thought continually in each track that there seemed signs of damage in the voice. Ms Schäfer uses a slightly "smoky" sound, which - however appropriate for Berg, Schönberg, etc. - is NOT appropriate for French vocal salon music as the basic vocal sound. Because she uses it all the time, it seems to me to have become part of her timbre. There will be many, I'm sure, who will like this. I don't. That's my personal taste.
Secondly - I must respectfully disagree with the reviewer below who said that the French sung here was beautiful. I couldn't help but notice the discernible German accent in the French. But on the plus side, Ms Schäfer has an impressive rapport with the MEANING of the French. She was meticulous with the faint emphases - she obviously knows what she is singing. I appreciate that enormously.
My third reason for not completely loving this recording was the performance of the two duets. I simply did not like the deliberate downward glissandi - not at all. They only occurred a couple of times, but those slides have preyed on me so much that I can't relax and enjoy just the beautifully sung parts of those duets (and some of those of two duets are very beautifully sung) because I'm mentally bracing myself for the sliding. I think that most listeners won't react with the nails-in-the-palms wincing - but for me, it fatally flaws both of those duets.Read more ›
This is a wonderful collection of songs by the Master Impressionist composer Claude Debussy and his lesser-known but highly gifted compatriot Ernest Chausson. German soprano Christine Schafer is an almost ideal singer for this elegant genre. She has a beautiful, delicate lyric voice, and offers the listener musical intelligence of the highest order. Her French diction is impeccable and her attention to musical detail is exquisite. She captures the emotional essence of each song, whether it is bathed in cool refinement or heated with sensuous passion. Ms. Schafer creates an indelible stamp on this gorgeous, complex music. Three examples of her stunning artistry are her rendition of Chausson's "Le temps des lilas", which is all sweeping, heartfelt melancholy, her deliciously naughty "Fantoches" with Debussy's marvelous musical effects honored so meticulously, and her lucid and luminous interpretation of Chausson's "Le Colibri," surely one of his most breathtaking songs. The pianist Irwin Gage offers compelling, beautifully textured accompaniments throughout. This is a great addition to the avid artsong lover's CD library.
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I bow to the previous reviewers, who seem to have specialist knowledge of French chansons. I don't, and my reason for listening to this CD was mainly curiosity -- how many German singers have attempted this echt Gallic repertoire? But Schafer is quite lovely, and her Frnech seems quite good. She has a slightly husky quality in her voice that's pleasing if not exactly idiomatic. Her interpretations of these sublime chansons by Chausson and Debussy eschew the preciosity that one so often enoucnters, as if Debussy must be treated like th most delicate crystal. Schager and Irwin Gage take a straightforward approach that's a bit shy of nuane but lovely in its melodic directness. It's not the only way to perform these songs, but it's very appealing.
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