Those interested in French music have often had reason to be grateful to Roger Nichols; his writings on Debussy, Ravel, Messiaen and Poulenc are indispensable to themusic lover. Nichols now turns his attentionsto the mélodie, where it is his mission to encourage singers to explore beyond the well-trodden paths of French song. In these two anthologies he does not ignore masterpieces by composers of the stature of Fauré and Duparc, but sets them alongside music – almost impossible to find elsewhere in print – by such under-estimated figures asReber, Viardot, Massé and Paladilhe. Even themore celebrated songs are often not easily found in practical editions, which makes thisselection an ideal starting point for wider exploration. In each of these volumes the songs appear in the chronological order of their composer's birth, but Nichols somehow contrives a line-up of music which seems delightfully arbitrary at the same time as carefully designed to enrich everyone's understanding of the mélodie. The books also contain a remarkable amount of scholarship, lightly worn and pithily expressed. As well as complete translations of the songs, there is a useful and concise introduction on singing in French, together with an illuminating historical note and critical commentary; and Nichols gives full due to thepoets who were of crucial importance in the development of the mélodie tradition. Graham Johnson.
Contents: Reber: Guitare; Gounod: Le soir; Gounod: Le premier jour de mai; Viardot: Les deux roses;Viardot: La mésange; Franck: Nocturne; Massé:Souvenirs; Lalo: Chant breton; Saint-Saëns: Chanson triste; Bizet: Vieille chanson; Massenet: Madrigal; Massenet: Ouvre tes yeux bleus; Chabrier: Les cigales; Paladilhe: Sonnet de Pétrarque; Fauré: Automne; Fauré: Le secret; Duparc: La vie antérieure; Chausson: Nocturne; Debussy: Le jet d'eau; Satie: Sylvie; Séverac: Philis; Honegger: Automne; Poulenc: Fleurs