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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 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.

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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.
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 there. 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.

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I know Jill Gomez's singing from her Britten Les Illuminations & Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne, both of which I like. But no, I didn't know about her recital of French songs, so I'll try to sample it. Thanks for the suggestion.

However, I do own quite few good recordings of the "Prose lyriques" already, including those by Piau/Immerseel, Ameling/Baldwin, Dietschy/Strosser, Leblanc/Tryon, & Schafer/Gage--all of which I'd rate highly & am happy with (yes, I'm a Debussy nut). So Gomez will have to offer something different from these performances for me to add yet another recording to my collection. But I'd like to hear her in this music.

I found Dietschy's Duparc album on youtube. I should reiterate, don't expect big romantic performances from her, rather she sings on a smaller, more intimate & more conversational scale than either Baker or Gomez. I suppose her style may be more of an acquired taste, but I like it. Plus, her intonation is superb,

& here she is singing Debussy's wonderful Chansons de Bilitis, L. 90 - No. 1, La flûte de Pan,

For the sake of comparison--& to continue in the spirit of this thread--here are Gens, Piau, Ameling, & Crespin in this magical song,


--Piau, with Arthur Schoonerwoerd on a period Erard piano, which I find a fascinating match & tonal blend to her voice:

Elly Ameling, Dalton Baldwin - La Flute De Pan.avi

Debussy: Trois chansons de Bilitis, L.90 - 1. La flûte de Pan

This was great idea for a thread, Shaughnessy--thanks! I hope you'll do more of this kind of thing. French mélodies deserve to be listened to & discussed more often than they are.
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