Véronique Gens / Susan Manoff HAHN - DUPARC - CHAUSSON Néère

The soprano Véronique Gens might be thought a natural for the French art song repertoire. But Néère, taking its title from the opening song by Reynaldo Hahn (the reference is to the Greek nymph known in English as Neaera, "white as a fine marble statue, with her rosy cheeks"), is one of just a few albums in the genre she has released. Get hold of it without delay: it's gorgeous. The French mélodie is not a high-register genre, and for a singer like Gens these songs reside in the lower part of her range, where she now brings just a bit of sultriness and smoke with devastating effect. The program includes three composers of the late 19th century who are closely related but contrasting in their individual styles: in the words of annotator Nicolas Southon "the melancholic Henri Duparc, the elegiac Ernest Chausson, the charmer Reynaldo Hahn." You could really dip in anywhere, but sample track 15, Hahn's A Chloris, for a taste of what Gens can do. The playing of accompanist Susan Manoff seems welded to Gens' vocal line, which even with all the voluptuous, erotic beauty has a kind of steely concentration that grows stronger and more impressive as the album proceeds. An absolute gem. (

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