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Which vocalist performed the best rendition of Fauré's 3 Mélodies, Op. 23: No. 1, Les berceaux?

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I actually know this song quite well, as I once sang it myself in recital.

All three ladies acquit themselves well. I did think Piau's tempo too fast at first, but that might just be becuse I'd listened to the other two first. I've heard Devieilhe in the theatre and I liked her very much, but her voice is a bit bright for this particular song I think. I prefer a singer with darker tones and Gens is the one that gives me that.

Somewhere in my head, though, I have the sound of a deeper man's voice in the song and a quick search on youtube came up with José Van Dam and I do think I prefer it sung by a man.
 

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This version won a Gramophone Magazine "Recording of the Month" award in August of 2022 - It's just a guess on my part but I think this may be closer to what you may have had in mind -


Les Berceaux, Op. 23 No. 1 · Cyrille Dubois ·
I enjoyed that, but I think I prefer a baritone. I was sure I had a recording of Panzéra singing it, but it doesn't seem to be on the collection I have. I like Van Dam in the song too.
 

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I chose Gens. If I'm not mistaken that was her debut album, & it remains one of her best, IMO. (It's my favorite by her.)

But I slightly prefer this soprano recording,

--Veronique Dietschy, with pianist Philippe Cassard--which unfortunately doesn't seem to be on youtube any longer: Faure: Melodies, Gabriel Fauré de Véronique Dietschy - Qobuz

I also listen to & like the following two mezzo soprano recordings, as well (& I may even prefer mezzos in this song),

-- Frederica Von Stade, with pianist Jean-Philippe Collard:

--Dame Janet Baker, with pianist Geoffrey Parsons: Les berceaux, Op 23 No 1 (Fauré) - from CDA66320 - Hyperion Records - MP3 and Lossless downloads

& my historical pick,
--Ninon Vallin, with pianist Marguerite Long:

I don't generally like male voices in French mélodies.
I thought I had most of Dame Janet's discs, but find that for some reason I never acquired this Fauré disc. I sampled the bit I could do from the Hyperion website and I hardly recognised her, though normally I only have to hear a few notes to know who it is. Still, I didn't hear enough to be able to make a judgement on it.

I did listen to the other three all the way through. I don't like Dietschy as much as you, and would still prefer Gens, but I did like both Von Stade and Vallin. At first I thought the Von Stade was too slow, and I still do really, but she somehow made the slow, dreamy tempo work and I think, of those we are considering, hers would be my favourite.
 

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By the time Dame Janet came to record for Hyperion it was late in her career. So, yes, her voice isn't as youthful or pure sounding. But the artistry is still here. Btw, her Fauré disc for Hyperion won Brit awards, & I think rightly so. She was always a superb interpreter of the French vocal repertory--Duparc, Berlioz, Ravel, Delage, Chausson, etc. But you can't go into it with the expectation to hear a younger Dame Janet, or you'll be mildly dissapointed.

What I like enormously about Veronique Dietschy in French mélodies, which people may not fully appreciate on first impression, is that she sings this repertory in a less operatic, more cantor-like style. Which means that she never gets screechy in this music: which is something that afflicts so many soprano recordings of French mélodies that I've heard. & especially in Debussy’s mélodies, which can have a greater expressive range, & therefore sopranos can get very screechy & overblown in the upper registers, if his songs are sung too operatically. Have you heard Dietschy sing Debussy? She never gets screechy. (The only female singers that I find comparable to her in Debussy mélodies are Elly Ameling, Maggie Teyte, Victoria de los Angeles, Michèle Command, Régine Crespin, Anne Sofie von Otter, Frederica Von Stade, & at times, Claudette Leblanc, Sandrine Piau, & Anne-Marie Rhodde--although the latter three singers can occasionally get either screechy or overly operatic in Debussy.)

This more cantor-like, more natural approach also allows Dietschy to interpret more shades of meaning within the words--like an actor on stage--than a full blown operatic singer will be able to, at least not to the same extent. Plus, it helps enormously that she is a native born speaker (as always). So, I find her approach to be very natural sounding, and her artfulness in handling the meaning of the words full of subtleties. (Btw, I'd strongly recommend her Debussy & Duparc.)

Gens offers a different kind of artfulness, which is exceptional too. Although I have heard her get screechy elsewhere in this repertory, where her voice becomes overly strained, unlike Dietschy.

I should also mention that Fauré himself wanted the solo singers in his Requiem to sing their parts in more "cantor-like" manner, rather than in a full blown operatic style. Although granted, the Requiem was initially meant to be sung in a church in a religious context, unlike his mélodies. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Fauré also wanted his mélodies to be sung in a slightly more natural style that was closer to the spoken word than an operatic performance.

Though ultimately, of course, each listener will decide for themselves. But it's something to think about when listening to these beautiful songs.
I have quite a few of Baker's last recordings (she did some Respighi for Collins and, for Virgin, a second recording of Les nuts d'été conducted by Hickox) but, though the voice has obviously aged and the vibrations loosened, I could still recognise her voice from just a few notes. That's what pulled me up short on the Fauré. Maybe it was Hyperion's sound on the sample I listened to.

I'm very interested in what you have to say about Dietschy. I'll definitely give her Debussy and Duparc a try. You like many of the singers I do - Teyte, De Los Angeles, Von Stade etc) so I obviously need to give her a second try.

Incidentally have you ever come across a recital of French songs by Jill Gomez, which was recorded back in the 1970s? Half of it is devoted to Debussy, including the Proses lyriques which aren't often performed. It's always been a big favourite of mine and I played it incessantly after I first bought it back then.
 

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@Josquin13 I'll check out those links, thank you.

By the way, did you see the competition I did for Duparc's Chanson triste (three rounds and a grand finale)? It featured quite a few male singers, so might not be up your street, though it was eventually won by Maggie Teyte.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Grand Finale
 
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