In June of 2016, Signum Classics released the first volume in pianist Malcom Martineau’s latest complete songs project. During my time with Examiner.com, I followed earlier Martineau projects focused on Benjamin Britten and Claude Debussy; and the composer for his current effort is Gabriel Fauré. For that first volume Martineau assembled an impressive array of vocalists, all of whose names were listed on the album cover: Lorna Anderson, Nigel Cliffe, Ann Murray, John Chest, Iestyn Davies, Ben Johnson, Janis Kelly, and Joan Rodgers. All but Rodgers perform on the second volume, which was released at the beginning of last month; but two new vocalists appear, Sarah Connolly and Thomas Oliemans.
From a musical point of view, I have no serious quibbles with the new release. However, as my Examiner.com readers may recall, this is a reflection of strong personal sympathies. Those sympathies date back around 30 years to when I was an artificial intelligence researcher devoting much of my spare time to my Baldwin grand piano. I had a colleague who was a baritone, and it was through him that I discovered Fauré’s art song repertoire. (I also happened to have a piano teacher named Jake Heggie, who seemed happy enough to allow me to work on the accompaniments for these songs, rather than the usual solo piano compositions.) The result is that it has been virtually impossible for me to listen to either of these volumes without eliciting many very fond memories.
Nevertheless, I have to raise one minor quibble about organization. I have yet to fathom the reasoning behind both the selections for the two albums and the ordering of the tracks. Thus, when I wish to consult a specific song, the booklet material is of little help. Fortunately, I have been able to overcome this problem by providing sufficient metadata for the Classical Music indexing tool provided by iTunes!
On the other hand there is one particular “gem of discovery” that overrides my quibble. That is Martineau’s inclusion in the second volume of Opus 10, which is a pair of duets. These are the only duets that Fauré published aside from his Opus 72 “Pleurs d’or” (golden tears). The Opus 10 duets are sung by Janis Kelly and Lorna Anderson; and they are absolutely ravishing (aside from the track ordering being the opposite of the publication ordering). It is also worth observing that Martineau has included the 1906 “Vocalise-Etude,” along with another one of the unpublished “vocalise” compositions written for sight-singing examinations.
The “bottom line” is that the assets of this new volume vastly outweigh my one little liability; and I am sure that I am not the only listener for which this release has served as an album of discovery.