Chausson: Poème de l'amour et de la mer, Op 19; Symphony in B flat major, Op 20

Reviewed on Tue 11 Jun, 2019

Soprano Véronique Gens is at her radiant, intelligent and articulate best; moreover, Alexandre Bloch and his excellent band provide eloquent support.

Composed between 1882 and 1892 and bearing a dedication to Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson's glorious orchestral song-cycle, Poème de l'amour et de la mer, clothes poems by Frenchman Maurice Bouchor (1855-1929) in music of aching tenderness, intoxicating sweep and (in the concluding ode to lost love, 'Le temps des lilas') transcendental power. It's handsomely served here, with soprano Véronique Gens at her radiant, intelligent and articulate best; moreover, Alexandre Bloch and his excellent band provide eloquent support. Don't miss hearing what is unquestionably the finest version of this masterly work to have come my way since Felicity Lott's cherishable 2001 Aeon recording set down in Geneva's Victoria Hall with Armin Jordan and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Completed in 1891, Chausson's substantial Symphony in B flat has not lacked ardent champions across the decades; notable versions that immediately spring to mind include Charles Munch's electrifying Boston SO account, and, in the DDD stakes, Zdenek Kosler (Supraphon), Jean Fournet (Denon) and Marek Janowski (Pentatone). As for this newcomer from Lille, I'm happy to report that it stacks up very well indeed: Bloch obtains some admirably vital and disciplined orchestral playing, and his conception evinces an expressive ardour, characterful personality, wide-eyed wonder and (above all) keen conviction that make for profoundly rewarding listening (the finale's epic breadth is as distinctive as it is daring). Excellently engineered and attractively presented, this admirable Alpha pairing deserves every success.
–Andrew Achenbach