**Le Diamant d'Opéra** (Special Commendation)
A most unexpected lesson from the Antipodes.
An Australian tenor and a French conductor transform Chausson’s celebrated Poème de l’amour de la mer partnered with some extremely rare and passionate works for voice and orchestra by Vierne. This is a revelation and one of the highlights of the start of 2010.
Struck with admiration while listening to this disc, the lack of imagination on the part of symphonic organisations and the timidity of the public makes one’s head swim. Without doubt the Poème de l’amour et de la mer is performed more today than it once was, but is sung by female voices when it was intended for a tenor.
It is true that Chausson sets more in the lower than the higher part of the range but this suits Steve Davislim perfectly, as powerfully sure in the lower notes and as he is shining in the highest. All of the romantic repertoire for “bari-tenors” would welcome him with open arms. Add to this exemplary French diction and phrasing, an expressive use of rubato, a warm tone colour, a natural musicality; one finds oneself running out of superlatives. The question of power remains because, on this evidence, to sing through Vierne’s sumptuous orchestral tuttis without ever forcing would require a Ben Heppner at the zenith of his form. One wonders how the sopranos who created these works must have battled! But that matters little because this is a recording and a recording that has revealed to us four symphonic poems for voice and orchestra written by Vierne between 1914 and 1931.
Les Djinns offers an equivalent level of dramatic and colourful invention to that of the virtuosic poem of Hugo. Ballade du désespéré, a surrealist dialogue by Murger, has a violent and terrifying sound world which touches the abyss, while in the enveloping melancholy of Eros the composer avoids the complicating demons which beset the students of César Franck. In the same way, the luminous Pysché where Steve Davislim draws an elegant line with his multifaceted voice. One cannot overstate the ideal understanding of this music—coming after Hélène and Nuit persane on the same label—that the young French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire shows here. His expressiveness never lets up and he heads a magnificent orchestra that is cohesive and replete with individual colours.
When one adds the rare quality of the presentation and the liner notes of Jacques Tchamkerten, there can be only one imperative – Discover!