BERTHOMIEU: Les Jardins de Paris.* 7 Poèmes de Charles Oulmont / Gabriel Bacquier, bar; Olivia Garnier, *Marc Berthomieu, pno; *Chamber group: Jean Leber, vln; Bruno Pasquier, vla; René Benedetti, cel; Roger Bourdin, Pierre-Yves Artaud, fl; Maurice Allard, bsn; Etienne Lorin, acc; Lily Laskine, Marielle Nordmann, harp / Maguelone 111.101
I tripped across this 1998 album while looking up recordings by the late, great baritone Gabriel Bacquier and was entranced. Although Marc Berthomieu (1906-1991) was considered a classical composer, he was only just one by virtue of being French.
None of these songs would either win a composition prize today or, I think, be taken seriously by most modern composers. They are unabashedly tonal, sentimental, and resemble French popular tunes though they are not really so. Yet there is something so charming and artless about them, particularly the 24-song cycle Les Jardins de Paris in which the singer is accompanied by a 10-piece chamber group which includes two flutes and two harps, that you find yourself smiling as you listen to them.
Even though Maguelone is a French label dedicated to preserving the work of French composers, one notices that this particular album took some time to be produced. Les Jardins de Paris was recorded in 1979, yet it wasn’t released until 19 years later, after Berthomieu had died and Bacquier recorded the remaining seven songs with piano-only accompaniment.
An unusual disc, then, but for lovers of French song and/or Bacquier, certainly worth checking out.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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