DEBUSSY: Songs, Vol. 3 [TrackList follows] – Jennifer France, sop./ Jonathan McGovern, bar./ Malcolm Martineau, piano – Hyperion CDA68016, 66:35 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

By any measure, Debussy’s 100-plus songs must rank him with the best and most important vocal compsoers of the last century. His output is varied and inconsistent in terms of style and origin; sometimes he leaned towards the past with intense sojourns into modality, while at other moments it seems as though the impetus to invade the world of popular song proved overwhelming. The reasons for the productivity are also oddly irregular. Many times it was a woman who inspired him, or a particular soprano, and even as lowly as an in-law in the process of a domestic intrusion—all of these things found their way into Debussy’s creative process, and maybe even more than most affected the mood as well as the mode of the song.

This is the third volume of Hyperion’s Debussy series, as usual each done with a different batch of singers, and this time we get two very young ones just beginning their careers. I must say that Jennifer France’s ethereal and radiantly light and expressive soprano voice suits these works fabulously (this is her debut, winner of the Song Prize at the 2014 Kathleen Ferrier Awards) as does fellow Brit Jonathan McGovern, who sports a likewise rather wistful and elegantly Francophile tonal allure that Debussy would certainly approved, even if France slightly outshines him. Diction is excellent and Martineau’s accompaniment is exquisitely nuanced to the particularities of this music. Enthusiastically recommended.

TrackList: Musique; Romance; La romance d’Ariel; Regret; L’Archet; Chanson triste; Les baisers d’amour; Les Elfes; Aimons-nous et dormons; Souhait; Sérénade; Rêverie; La Belle au bois dormant; Il dort encore; Les Roses; Pierrot; Les baisers; Dans le jardin; Le Lilas; Caprice; Zéphyr; Fête galante; Le promenoir des deux amants; Paysage sentimental

—Steven Ritter