RAVEL: ShÈhÈrezade
DUPARC: MÈlodies

It is ambitious for a male singer to take on Maurice Ravelís ShÈhÈrazade, a cycle usually performed by a female singer. In fact, a number of fine recordings by women already exist to question the need for a male version of the piece. Yet Jarnot executes the music convincingly in what is listed as the ìworld premiere recordingî of this piece performed by a baritone. The three songs that comprise ShÈhÈrazade, ìAsie!î, ìLa flute enchantÈe,î and ìLíindiffÈrent,î are sustained pieces that require the clear presentation that Jarnot and Helmut Deutsch offer. Jarnotís subtle execution of ìIndiffÈrentî bears attention for its extended lines and fine phrasing of the text.
The pianist Helmut Deutsch offers just the proper level of accompaniment, which supports Jarnot well with its discreet entrances and genuinely soft tone. Deutschís deft touch sets an appropriate tone for Ravelís music, especially in some of the more subtle passages. When he faces more extroverted music, as in the previous song, ìLa flute enchantÈe,î Deutsch is equally convincing as he reinforces Jarnotís careful phrasing. Yet it is the opening piece that shows the pair at their best. Jarnotís exposed lines are full and strong, as he gives Tristan Klingsorís texts meaningful expression. The repeated cries of ìAsie!î suggest the wonder and yearning that the poet attempts to express in this celebration of all those exotic things that make up this powerful song. This is a song that requires sensitivity to work well in a recital, and even more to come off well in a recording like this. It is the remote, the other in us, that makes ìAsiaî so evocative and Jarnot expresses this well, not only in his inflection of the text, but his nuanced tones.
Similarly, the twelve MÈlodies by Henri Duparc are the ones usually performed by a male singer, and Jarnot offers a fine interpretation of these quintessentially French songs. Baudelaireís text for the final song, ìLa vie antÈrieureî offers a fine parallel with Ravelís ìAsie,î the song which opens this recording. In fact, some lines of Baudelaireís poem are an apt comment on the performance:

. . . MÍlaient díune faÁon solennelle et mystique
Les tout puissants accords de leur riche musique . . . .

. . . in a solemn and mystical way, mingled
the powerful chords of their rich music . . .

The performers succeed in conveying the unique sense of each of Duparcís songs. Through the tempos he has chosen, Jarnot is able to express the text effectively, which is crucial to the settings of verse by such poets as Gautier, Baudelaire, and others. The familiar ìLíinvitation au voyageî is a fine collaboration between Jarnot and Deutsch, with its sinuous lines evoking the seduction described in the text. In contrast, the more emotionally direct ìLa vague et la clocheî is masterfully performed, with its almost raucous evocation of the waves that almost overwhelm the songís protagonist. Between these somewhat extreme expressions of emotion, Duparcís MÈlodies involve a variety of situations that demand much from the performers. Jarnot gives these songs with insight and precision, elements that Deutsch reinforces in his meticulous accompanying. This is music for mature singers, musicians whose expressiveness goes beyond the words on the page to unearth the deeper meanings of the text and the subtleties of the musical lines.
Jarnot delivers the Duparc MÈlodies consistently well, which makes this recording noteworthy for anyone interested in this music. The sound of this Oehms recording solidly conveys the nuances of expression for both the voice and piano. Unlike some other Oehms recordings, like Jarnotís collection of Mahlerís Lieder, there is no question in this CD of French music about the placement of the microphones, which seem too close in that earlier recording. In the present one, the ambiance is appropriate to the music and performers.
As to the CD itself, the booklet includes the original texts for all the pieces on it, along with translations in German and English. With such relatively unfamiliar music, having the texts available is preferable to having listeners find them on their own. Oehms may want to provide consistently texts for fine recordings of vocal music, like this one. Overall, this is an impressive recording that bodes well for future recordings by this promising baritone.
James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

image_description=Maurice Ravel: ShÈhÈrezade; Duparc: MÈlodies
product_title=Maurice Ravel: ShÈhÈrezade
Duparc: MÈlodies
product_by=Konrad Jarnot, baritone; Helmut Deutsch, piano.
product_id=Oehms Classics OC 355 [CD]