Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stéphane Degout in Louvre: L'art du bon gout

Louvre Auditorium, April 14, 2010 Stéphane Degout (Hélène Lucas, piano)

A. Dvorak - Ciganske melodie
F. Liszt - Die drei Zigeuner
F. Schubert - Schwanengesang
R. Hahn - Cimetière de Campagne ; Trois jours de vendange
M. Ravel - Histoires Naturelles
E. Chabrier - Chanson pour Jeanne ; L'île heureuse ; Les cigales

Stéphane Degout is one of the best French singers right now and among the best singers in general [I know, I know there is Ludovic Tézier and Philippe Jaroussky - OK, Alagna can pull it off sometimes too - but rare are those who sound like Degout right now]. It's not only the beauty of his voice, that straddle around the young freshness and full maturity, but it's also his remarkable interpretative skills that capture your attention. 

Although different, for the sake of a reference, his voice is comparable to what Simon Keenlyside sounded like several years ago. Stéphane was recently in Cenerentola where he was OKish but clearly not on his turf. More liederish stuff is where he's the best at, so I knew this leaderabend at the Louvre would be  cool. And cool it was! 

First of all, the program was very generous. It was a 2 hours evening, including a short break. Secundo, the program was tailored for aficionados (instead of overused songs to please the crowd he opted for several wonderful rarities). 

Dvorak songs are not that known among Parisians and to start off the recital in Czech was little risky, but the first encounter with the width of his voice is enough to get your mind opened for Dvorak [I only knew "The Song my mother taught me"].  Stéphane's voice is sane and safe in every way. The Gipsy song by Liszt was my favorite moment of the first part. Then comes Schubert and 2 remarks: (a) the accuracy of his singing sounds almost spontaneous [that's where the hard work takes you to]; (b) the upper register of his voice is particularly beautiful right now. 

The second part was devoted to French Songs. Two songs by R. Hahn were a bit cheesy (the only low point of the evening), but then he takes on 5 witty and lovely songs by Ravel, of which Le Cygne was the best [Ravel will never end surprising me: how would you expect a man who was sick depressed melancholic most of his life, to compose this kind of music?!] Finally, three pretty songs by Chabrier, one Debussy for an encore and that was it!

The lady on piano knows Stéphane since his student days and the musical complicity between the two shows.

A very very pleasant evening of refined singing and  bon gout.

Louvre from inside the Pyramide

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