Dramatic elegance is an apt description for these French symphonic poems for voice and orchestra and their performance by Australian tenor, Steve Davislim. Having reviewed an earlier disc by this singer, my admiration grows with this recording.
His range of expression in Louis Vierne’s music covers the horror engendered in his setting of Victor Hugo’s Les Djinns (‘a hideous army of vampires and dragons fills the sky! ...hellish cries’) through the joyful anticipation of love mixed with sadness of unfulfilled love in Eros to the weariness of life in Ballade du déspespéré (Ballad of the despairing man) and the soulful questioning of the beautiful, delicate aspects of life in Pysché (also by Hugo). All of these works are relatively unknown, Vierne being mostly renowned for his organ works. Yet the major part of his composition was for the voice and, in fact, all three women who shared his life were singers. His vocal works often mirrored his troubled personal life and his feelings of despair expressed at the end of his life despite the accolades he had received as both organist and composer.
Steve Davislim brings great sensitivity to Ernest Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer (Poem of love and the sea), a standard work in the repertoire which has been recorded by many superb singers. It begins serenely with La fleur des eaux (The flower of the waters) but soon becomes anguished as the poet recalls the happy times of a lost love. The instrumental interlude in the form of a funeral march is followed by the lament La mort de l’amour (The death of love) ending with ‘the time of lilacs and roses is gone forever’.
From the above you will realise that there is mainly sadness expressed in these works but oh! so exquisitely!