“Moments of Love” = BRITTEN: Cabaret Songs (selections); HAHN: Le printemps; Le rossignol des lilas; Fumée; Dans la nuit; L’heure exquise; RAVEL: Trois poemes de Stephane Mallarmé; SAINT-SAËNS: Aimons-nous; L’attente (Hugo); La coccinelle; Tournoiement ‘Songe d’opium’ Op. 26, No. 6; Danse macabre (song); WYNER: The Second Madrigal: Voices of Women – Dominque Labelle, soprano/ Yehudi Wyner, p. – Bridge 9406, 69:17 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Dominque Labelle has a beguiling voice; this is the first time I have heard her outside of Baroque repertory, and it is a pleasure indeed. Her concentrated, intense vibrato reminds me of singers of old, and is particularly suited to this “French”—or quasi-French—program. Why quasi? Because Benjamin Britten is hardly a French composer, yet his Cabaret Songs have without a doubt a feeling of the bistro instead of the pub. The real French composers are represented by selections from their finest work—and what a joy to hear the Saint-Saëns Dance macabre in its original form, two years before the tone poem appeared—showing Labelle in top form and capable of some miraculous gradations of nuance, expressivity, and emotion.

Wyner is a sensational accompanist, as well as a fine composer. His The Second Madrigal: Voices of Women was actually written for Labelle, with whom he has a long association, and fits fully into the French theme with its sometimes lonely scoring and emphasis on the soprano as the driving force behind the melodies. It was originally scored for string quintet, wind quintet, and percussion, and Wyner admits fear at the piano reduction because of the plethora of rich and colorful sound in the original version. But in a way I find that the reduction portrays a completely different feeling in the ascetic rigors of a lonely piano, and it fits the music and the texts—by or about women—very well.

The sound is very soft and isolation chamber pure, nicely rounded and comfortable.

—Steven Ritter