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Appropriate ardency

Juliane Banse and András Schiff perform songs by
Debussy and Mozart -
reviewed by

'... a smart and authoritative singer ...'

Juliane Banse and András Schiff - Songs of Debussy and Mozart. © 2003 ECM Records GmbH

The French really are an odd lot. In his self-indulgent liner notes to this disc, Jacques Drillon rambles on vaguely in a philosophical essay evidently designed less to legitimize the works on the recording than to extol the lack of anything substantive he has to say about them. Indeed, he discloses absolutely nothing of the relevant facts or historical background of such important music, which even the savvy consumer might want to explore. That said, such hyperbolic strong-arming does nothing to undermine the extraordinary elegance of Debussy's early songs, including his ethereal Ariette oubliées [listen -- track 14, 0:00-1:01], so ably performed by the young German soprano, Juliane Banse.

Debussy was only twenty six when he fell under the influence of the poets Verlaine, Malarmé and other French symbolists of his day, whose poetry, which he set, would come to dominate so much of his vocal music. His songs are visionary in more ways than one, anticipating the aesthetic innovations of his late piano works and even the radical agenda of his only opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, which abandoned theatricality altogether and exploited stasis as an organizing principal of composition.

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Copyright © 17 December 2003 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA


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