I was a little tough on tenor Steve Davislim when his Winterreise was released, considering it too slow and deliberate while overly long. Here the other qualities of his voice make a most welcome appearance. The Poem of Love and the Sea is easily the greatest work on this disc, and here for the first time—or so I remember—I can hear it in its original version for tenor. (Usually it proves a star vehicle for sopranos, and many recordings in that guise are simply outstanding.) Davislim’s voice soars with all of the passion inherent in Chausson’s exquisitely rendered score, surely one of the masterpieces of the post-romantic age, and one of the composer’s top three orchestra works. The sonic spread here is equally lush and overflowing, Melba living up to their short but intense reputation of aural excellence. [And also packaging excellence - glorious notes and illustrations here the equal of Alia Vox' artistic efforts...Ed.]
Louis Vierne’s works are usually heard on the organ, the composer himself a master of the instrument who ended up at Notre Dame in Paris. The divorce of his first wife (a real no-no for him back then), the death of his son and brother in WWI led to a generally depressed condition, though the presence of yet another woman in his life towards its conclusion allowed him in some degree of comfort and security to continue his art. These four songs are long and poetically involved, almost like scenes from an esoteric opera, but gravitating towards tone poems with words. They are not the cheeriest things ever written but are surely among the most beautiful, lush, splendid, and emotionally windswept. I loved it, with thanks to Davislim’s great interpretative nuances and the superb playing of the Queensland Orchestra. This disc is a must have from this year’s crop.