- Recording of the Month -
"Two things that I’ve learned over the last few years are that any recital disc from Susan Graham is likely to be An Event and that she has a particular affinity for French repertoire. Her latest CD reinforces both points. ...This is as fine a disc of mélodies as I’ve heard in a long time. The programme is marvellously varied and full of interest and both Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau are on top form throughout. Gerald Larner’s succinct but excellent notes set each item in context. Finally, the recording is excellent, balancing the performers very well and providing truthful and musical sound. This disc provides unalloyed pleasure and is not to be missed.
Encore, s’il vous plait."
MuiscWebInternational - 08 October 2008
"Indulgence is the byword in Susan Graham and Malcom Martineau’s recital of 20 chansons... her characterisation of Rosenthal’s playful "La Souris d’Angleterre", Hahn’s neo-baroque "A Chloris" and the arch tragedy of Poulenc’s "La Dame de Monte-Carlo" is impeccable. Martineau’s precision is displayed to good effect in the intricate figures of Lalo’s "Guitare", Chausson’s "Les Papillons" and Honegger’s "Trois Chansons de la Petite Sirène."
Indeoendent On Sunday - 16 October 2006
- CD of the Week -
"Five years have passed since we last heard from the American mezzo in the recording studio, although this “bouquet” recital comes hard on the heels of her live recording of Berlioz’s La Mort de Cléopâtre with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Phil on EMI (lavishly praised by David Cairns here two Sundays ago). Berlioz, as it happens, is almost the only significant figure omitted from this near-comprehensive one-song-per-composer survey — Delibes and Massenet, too, are noticeable by their absence — ranging from Bizet’s Chanson d’Avril, of 1866, to Poulenc’s La Dame de Monte Carlo, of almost 100 years later (1961). Most of the expected suspects are included, of course, but with songs off the well-beaten track. Ravel’s Le Paon — with its yowling peacock cries on the word “léon” — from Histoires Naturelles, is one of very few tracks taken from the standard repertoire, and one of Graham’s favourite songs, A Chloris, Reynaldo Hahn’s exquisite nostalgic recollection of the galant era of Lully and Rameau, had to be included, even though she recorded it in her album devoted entirely to Hahn (Sony).
The buried treasure consists of the delectable Psyché, by Emile Paladilhe (1844-1926), Chère nuit, by Alfred Bachelet (1864-1944), and La Souris d’Angleterre, a high-jinks cabaret song about an English mouse by the great Offenbach conductor-arranger Manuel Rosenthal (1904-2003). Graham’s superb pianist, Martineau, is the begetter of what he calls a menu gourmand, and with the help of Graham’s velvet mezzo and beautifully enunciated French, it is served up sumptuously."
Sunday Times - 28 September 2008
"Resistance is futile,’ wrote the New York Times after the American mezzo Susan Graham passed through town with this fresh, unpredictable and varied programme covering a century of French song. In this repertoire, as in most others, Graham charms, flirts and beguiles, from Bizet and Saint-Saens to Poulenc, via lesser-known rarities such as Hahn’s ’A Chloris’ and Canteloube’s ’Brezairola’. ’Un frisson Francais’ captures Graham at her most lyrical, contagiously joyful one moment, poignantly heartfelt the next."
The Observer - 18 October 2008
- Vocal Recording of the Month -
"Based on a touring programme, Graham and Martineau’s selection puts its own spin on the recital format, grouping songs by affinity rather than by composer. Of the latter there are 22, each appearing once: melodists, romantics, early moderns, stylisers, running from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th. The familiar appears in unusual contexts and alongside a scattering of rarities. Bizet’s fresh harmonies go next to the steamed-up chromaticism of Franck’s Nocturne; between Chabrier and Chausson comes Emile Paladilhe’s quiet, intensely sensual Psyche, for which Graham persuasively darkens her low-register timbre.
Then there’s Alfred Bachelet’s Chere nuit, its expansive phrases overlapping the introduction like a French Morgen, followed by Duparc’s Au pays ou se fait la guerre – one of the greatest works here, and performed with the full cumulative power of its sense of impending calamity. It’s worth pausing between groups, because the impact is intense, steeped in longing and loss with little of the light or frivolous. Even Manuel Rosenthal’s witty La Souris d’Angleterre sounds like a premonition of latter-day tourists’ excesses. The performers are at one in their fluency, delicate rubato and avoidance of Anglo-Saxon archness, within an acoustic that combines intimacy and atmosphere." ***** Performance & Sound
BBC Music Magazine - November 2008
"The American mezzo Susan Graham covers the quai of French song from Bizet to Poulenc in five sets. The selection is clever, eclectic and often downright obscure. A rare nocturne by the severe Cesar Franck, a sentimental neurosis called Psyche by the unspellable Paladilhe, The Lost Fiancee by Messiaen and Manuel Rosenthal’s English Mouse are just a sampling of this potpourri. Malcolm Martineau is the impeccable accompanist in St Paul’s Church, New Southgate, which is engineered to sound like a Left Bank salon. Delicious."
Evening Standard - 12 November 2008
"An all-French recital extending from Bizet through Messiaen is bound to have passages where every third word seems to be ’papillons’ or ’charmant’. But cliches are spectacularly transcended here in a disc arranged in roughly chronological order, each composer represented by only one song. Few are familiar, such as Henri Duparc’s anti-war "To the Land Where War is Raging" or Reynaldo Hahn’s "To Chloris." The rest explore repertoire even Francophiles may not know about, including composers not normally associated with song, such as César Franck, Édouard Lalo, André Caplet and Albert Roussel.
Virtually every one is a distinctive, significant find, whether Saint-Saens’ "Dance of Death" that inspired his later orchestra work Danse Macabre, with words examining the egalitarian elements of death, or Honegger’s Three Songs of the Little Mermaid, whose title character is heard calling out through watery piano figures in distant keys.
Susan Graham has sung French music most of her professional life, and it shows in the way she locates the core musicality of a piece while also characterizing the voices within each song with engaging theatricality. In terms of vocal luster, she’s never sounded better - or better framed, thanks to Malcolm Martineau’s superb accompaniment."
David Patrick Stearns
Philadelphia Enquirer - 17 November 2008
"Susan Graham is that rare beast - a non-Francophone who sings expressive idiomatic French...she captivates with her sensuous, subtly-coloured tone and acute feeling for mood and nuance. She can float a caressing line, as in Canteloube’s Brezairola, and catches all the bleak disillusion of Debussy’s Colloque sentimental. She crowns the performance with a brilliantly acted performance of Poulenc’s monodrama La dame de monte Carlo..."
The Daily Telegraph - 4 October 2008
"Imagination, wit and the skilfully manipulated French frisson of this album’s title are among the strategic resources that are tapped in a recital disc that can hold its own with the best..." *****
Classic FM Magazine - November 2008
"...sung ravishingly by this wonderful artist. She and her pianist bring something exceptional to each song and end this outstanding disc with Poulenc’s nostalgic melodrama La dame de Monte-Carlo." *****
The Sunday Telegraph - 12 October 2008
"With Susan Graham in radiant form and Malcolm Martineau not just an accompanist but an active partner in the project, "Un frisson francais" offers a unique survey of French melodie from the mid 19th to the mid-20th: 22 songs - one per composer... A rich collection in excellent sound - no-one will be disappointed."
Gramophone - November 2008
- Record of the Year -
"Graham’s "bouquet" of French song, spanning 100 years from Gounod to Messiaen is one of the most delicious surprises of the year - chocolate truffles for the ears."
The Sunday Times - 10 December 2008
-10 Classical Albums that matter in 2008 -
"Although she grew up in West Texas, with not a drop of French blood in her veins, Graham possesses an instinctive feel and obvious affection for French vocal music of all kinds.
In this delightful album, she traverses two centuries of French art songs or melodies by 22 famous and not-so-famous composers. With first-rate support from Martineau, she adroitly negotiates the range of styles and moods with nary a misstep, capturing their distinctly Gallic esprit."
The Denver Post - 7 December 2008
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