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Mots D'Amour: Songs By Cecile Chaminade

5.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Just take it as read that Anne Sofie von Otter is in her usual captivating form. Her legions of fans needn't think twice before acquiring this fascinating new album. What, though, of the music itself? Pianist and composer Cécile Chaminade, born in Paris in 1857, is known to aficionados as a composer of piano miniatures, a fact reflected in what has crept into the recording catalogue over the years. Here, though, are the fruits of pianist Bengt Forsberg's enthusiasm for the songs. And irresistible they are, too. How on earth have such imaginative, charming, elegant, and beautifully crafted melodies (all on the subject of amour) escaped widespread acknowledgement for so long? There's a wide range of moods, from the bubbling "Malgré Nous" and the whimsical "L'Amour captif" to the passionate "Te souviens-tu?" and the reflective, bittersweet "Ma première lettre." As you might expect from a pianist-composer, the accompaniments are delightful, a fact relished to the full by Forsberg. Von Otter identifies with every phrase (barring the odd rather unseemly scoop) and emotion. Various short pieces for violin and piano, and two pianos, provide an engagingly performed bonus. --Andrew Green

Review

Anyone for whom Cecile Chaminade (1857-1944) conjures up the familiar Scarf Dance, that salon perennial whose mellifluous contours grace many a '100 Favourite Piano Solos' volume, will find that this disc enlarges their picture. Chaminade was indeed a saloniste of the first rank, though her early work evinced a penchant for more ambitious structures. According to Gerard Conde's informative booklet note, an eventual 'retreat' into smaller forms was in response to her father's death and the resultant need to support herself and her mother through far-flung piano recitals. Artistically, however, this provided a natural focus for her immaculate workmanship. Cecile's view of herself as a 'musical vestal' may evoke a more secular Lili Boulanger, but hearing these works suggests that, had she not withdrawn from music in 1914, she might well have joined Germaine Tailleferre as a member of 'Les Sept'. Her supple, pliant harmonic language can create a dappled light that never darkens into la crepuscule. Between 1890 and 1910, Chaminade wrote some 140 melodies, and Anne Sofie von Otter's response to 25 of them is quietly breathtaking. The protean singer can literally 'turn on a dime': her vocal and tonal gear shifts are perfectly judged and impeccably executed, while the scale of each performance precisely matches the musical weight of the respective song. Like Chaminade herself, von Otter meets every one of these 'mots d'amour' with an equivalent musical mot juste. Bengt Forsberg clearly relishes the composer's pianistic imagination, which in Aupres de ma mie surrounds the voice's reciting tone with an iridescent raindrop toccata, or sets Villanelle to a clangour of bells. Nils-Erik Sparf plays a violin obbligato in the song Menuet, and gives idiomatic readings of three instrumental pièces. Finally, Bengt Forsberg is joined by Peter Jablonski in some bracing two-piano pieces that recall the four-hand quadrilles of Chabrier and Fauré/Messager. The Valse carnavalesque was originally performed by Chaminade in sync with her own piano roll.The booklet reproduces a dozen individual title-pages whose vintage typography and graphic design enhance the period flavour of the whole. In concept and realization, this journey down a very special byway of song is a release of rare quality.Stephen Pruslin -- From International Record Review - subscribe now
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Product Details

  • Performer: Anne Sofie von Otter, Cécile Chaminade, Bengt Forsberg
  • Audio CD (February 12, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00005OM82
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,456 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
It is hardly news to say that Anne Sophie von Otter is quite, quite amazing; she has, in her way, reached the point that a celebrated stage actress might, at which we would say that she could recite the telephone book and we would listen gratefully.
Fortunately for us she is instead singing the lovely songs of the undeservedly obscure Cecile Chaminade, whose exquisite and entirely retrograde songs are given their due and more in these sensitive and heartfelt performances. Several cheers at least should be given for the worthy contributions of pianists Bengt Forsberg and Peter Jablonski (the former on both song accompaniments and the instrumental tracks that end the album) as well for Nils-Erik Sparf on violin.
This collection is just the thing for anyone fond of intelligent singing, sentimental poetry, or music that aims to warm a tired heart. It is most of all for anyone who knows, with Mlle. Chaminade, that one might someday forget one's first love letter, but never the feeling that inspired it...
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As it happens, I have been moderately familiar with the music of Cecile Chaminade for a number of years, so perhaps I can give anyone curious but uncertain what to expect some idea of what he or she will find on this disc. Chaminade seems to have been totally celibate her entire life. She eventually abandoned music for exhausting work as a hospital administrator in the first world war. Debilitation due to this cause and, according to the sleeve note, to an excessively vegetarian diet led to her losing a foot through amputation, but she lived on until age 87, dying in 1944. Her musical style is in many obvious senses conservative. The harmonic advances of Debussy and Ravel, and even of Faure, find no echo in her work. The style is very French, and there may be some influence of Saint-Saens, but for me there are odd reminiscences of Berlioz, himself a lot more innocent in many ways than he liked to let on.

The 25 love songs here are, with only one exception unless my ears deceive me, in major keys. The only poet whose name is familiar to me is Ronsard, and the sentiments are chaste and asexual from start to finish. Despite that they manage to sound very Parisian and ooh-la-la. They are not pale and maidenly but full of high spirits and energy. There are no dark shadows even in the minor-key number, and not a hint of the worldly-wisdom of Jane Austen. The piano parts are boldly written and occasionally quite demanding, and there is also a violin obbligato in the Minuet. In addition we are given three violin/piano duos (one arranged by Kreisler) and three slightly larger works for two pianos, in which it would be possible to hear the idiom of Saint-Saens but not for certain.
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This delightful CD of music by Cecile Chaminade, was the inspiration of Bengt Forsberg. He spent decades searching for and "collecting her music in second-hand music shops." While collaborating with Anne Sofie von Otter on another program, Forsberg showed her these neglected songs. The result was this wonderful CD. Probably you should listen to this CD for the Chaminade melodies. (25 of the 140 songs are presented here). But, Forsberg has also recorded the pieces for violin & piano and pieces for two pianos with Spaft, and Jablonski. The inclusion of these pieces, gives us a more complete idea of Chaminade's range of composition.
The artistry of von Otter, is captivating, and Forsberg clearly has an affinity for Chaminade's romantic French music.
It is easy to record and sell the tried and true, but Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg (and DG) have done something risky in recording Chaminade's music. She is not Mozart. At the time of this writing this recording ranked 38,201 on Amazon.com's sale ranking system. And so, perhaps it will not payoff for the artists and the company involved. Perhaps this CD will not be available for long. Perhaps. But IT IS available NOW, and so I encourage anyone who reads this to find a way to hear this delightful music in these nearly perfect performances.
I highly recommend it.
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Anne Sofie brings Chaminade's vocal music to an elevated level with Berlioz, Faure and Duparc in the classical world. Most of these pieces were unheard of until von Otter brought them to the public's attention with her beautiful interpretation of Chaminade's melody and text. Bengt Forsberg provides support that opens the gateway to a beautiful and expressive performance of these melodies. This is truly a treasure for any classical vocal library!
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This album really was a great find. I had previously heard several works by the French composer Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944). Some were included on the splendid album "Women at an Exposition", which I recently found by chance, as I explained in a separate review for Amazon. After listening to them, I was eager to hear more and was delighted when I found "Mots d'Amour: Songs by Cécile Chaminade" on Amazon as an MP3 album from Deutsche Grammophon. The style of this collection is wonderfully and unmistakably French, as is clear from the very first track ("Ronde d'Amour"). Most of the tracks are drawing-room/parlour/art songs of a very high quality, running the whole gamut of emotions - romantic (such as the excellent "Mots d'Amour", from which the album derives its title); at times lively and even perky (the wonderful "Voisinage", "Nice-La-Belle" and "Villanelle" come immediately to mind); whilst others are sad (the touching "Chanson triste") or much more serious (I really loved "Viens, Mon Bien-Aimé"). The songs are not particularly complex or innovating; but it matters not to me that they have been described as "sentimental and sometimes sugary" and that to some they "might seem hopelessly dated". Perhaps. But to my ear, the songs have a beautiful and often exquisite life of their own, both in the lyrics and the music. There are also several instrumental pieces for piano and violin. Some of these, I agree, tend to be more conventional than the art songs, with the notable exception of "Pas des Cymbales" (for two pianos) and possibly "Capriccio" (for violin and piano). The singing of Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano) is again amazing and enchanting. It is no wonder that she is such a well-loved performer. She is accompanied, as on many previous occasions, by the pianist Bengt Forsberg, who knows so well (intuitively?) how to complement this great artist impeccably. I really do believe that the album will please and enchant almost any listener.
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