Lose yourself in Chausson’s Poème de l’amour

Susan Graham revives one of the underrated composer's finest works.

Composer: Chausson
Repertoire: Poèmes de l’amour
Artists: Susan Graham, BBC SO/Yan Pascal Tortelier
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Warner 2564 61938-2

It is very easy to lose oneself in sheer Gallic gorgeousness here. Chausson’s Poème  de l’amour et de la mer is one of this underrated composer’s finest works: more than a song, slightly less than a song cycle, it’s  a fervid evocation of overheated lost love clothed in the darkest, silkiest, most refined melodies and textures. In Graham’s richly thought-out interpretation, you can almost smell the lilac blossom that fragrances the poem; her nuancing of the text by the Symbolist poet Maurice Bouchor is more than exemplary.

Chausson’s music forms a marvellous contrast with the sharper-edged exoticism of Ravel’s Shéhérazade; and John Adams’s sensitive orchestration of Debussy’s Baudelaire songs brings these sensual settings into highly-polished, technicolour relief. It’s fascinating to hear what a contemporary master of orchestration like Adams makes of Debussy’s piano-oriented half-lights; the result manages to be faithful to the spirit of Debussy while also casting the music in a more up-to-the-minute light, with crystalline clarity and extra sprinklings of glitter when appropriate.

Graham sings with a rounded, clear, open tone that can soar in unbridled ecstasy while always remaining precise and well defined. The orchestral accompaniment is warm and sympathetic.