Turbulent Heart

Adrian Corleonis
Fanfare (US)

Vierne’s orchestral songs are disc premieres—and therefore self-commending—while male voice traversals of Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer have been few and far between ... As Jacques Tchamkerten’s informative annotations tell, ‘These days Poème de l’amour et de la mer is usually performed by female singers, but it was written for a tenor voice, as the printed score expressly states.’ Perhaps. My ancient, undated, pre-public domain Badoux vocal score states only ‘pour une voix (élevée) et orchestre,’ while The New Grove’s works list remains noncommittal. The piano transcription, made in 1896, three years before the orchestral version, is Chausson’s ...

At issue is expressive power. And in that young Australian tenor Steve Davislim is certainly not lacking, bringing a measured pathos to Chausson’s representation of a seaside romance gone flat—the essentially light, bright voice evincing more darkly hued reserves for the shuddering realization of loss, but still the projection of a young adult ... The four Vierne songs are evenly divided between horror-show theatrics laid on in primary colors—whelming swarms of evil spirits in Les djinns, the insistent visitor revealed at last as Death in Ballade du désespéré—and the coy erotic charms suggested by their titles, Eros and Psyché. Where Franck’s Les djinns, for piano and orchestra, for instance, excuses him from facing Victor Hugo’s verse while providing chills and thrills aplenty, and Fauré’s choral setting affords deftly tongue-in-cheek excitement, Vierne takes it all quite seriously, skirting bathos in lurid depiction. The hovering tremulousness of Eros and Psyché, delicately spun out of the billowing chromatic swells of Franck’s Psyché ballet, leaves one in no doubt how precious close feminine companionship was to Vierne. Through them all, his post-Romantic lushness takes on a near-expressionist intensity—not for nothing the album title, Turbulent Heart.

Complementing so much affetuoso orchestral writing, Melba’s surround affords a richly detailed, immediately balanced aural repletion, with Davislim (contrary to the usual highlighting), never covered but, well integrated with the superb Queensland Orchestra, led with aplomb by Guillaume Tourniaire. Melba’s production values are luxurious, with Tchamkerten’s annotations, biographies of Davislim and Tourniaire, a listing of the Queensland Orchestra personnel, and the poems in French, English, and German, on heavy, colorfully set-off stock, in eye-welcoming 11-point type, making a fat 99 page booklet, pasted into the cardboard sleeve—a palpable harbinger of the sumptuousness on disc. Splendid!