POULENC: Trios Poemes de Louise de Vilmorin; Fiancailles pour Rire; Airs Chantes; La Courte Paille; Tel Jour Telle Nuit; Les Chemins de l’amour – Barbara Hendricks, soprano/ Love Derwinger, piano – Arte Verum ARV-004, 56:30 **** [Distr. By Allegro]:
Barbara Hendricks is now 59 years old and is living as an expatriate in Sweden. Long an activist for various human rights causes, she entered the jazz world in the 1990s yet still retains a formidable presence on the world’s classical concert stages. In 2006 she left the EMI label and formed her own, Arte Verum, of which this 2006-recorded album is the first, I believe. It is nice to have her back in the recording studio, especially in music of the French school, a segment of the compositional populace that she has long been associated with. Her EMI recording of the songs of Faure has long been one of my favorites.
The many and sometimes manic moods of Francis Poulenc are particularly prevalent in his songs, and Hendricks seems right at home with them. His innate and naturally flowing lyricism suits a soprano like Hendricks very well indeed, and especially since the melodies don’t really make any non-negotiable demands on the voice, the choice is perhaps firm evidence of a fine musical intelligence working to select appropriate material. There is some sign of strain–well, perhaps not strain, but of a slight breaking down of the voice in a few spots, but they are not noticeable to the point of ruining the experience, and we are quickly won over by the soprano’s unerring sense of decorum and French mannerism in these strongly melodic works.
The sound is very good, with the proper amount of resonance found around both singer and piano (and Love Derwinger is right on in his application of balanced accompaniment). This is a fine album, and a noteworthy addition to the Poulenc melodie discography.
— Steven Ritter