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Francophone composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries have naturally turned to the poetry of Paul Verlaine. Its dreamy, enigmatic imagery is a perfect springboard for musical invention. This new recording encapsulates a whole heritage of French song.

From the opening set of Reynaldo Hahn songs, the wonderful young Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser enchants us with airy, shimmeringly beautiful singing that caresses every word of Verlaine’s febrile, exquisitely coloured verse (the CD booklet gives the French texts but not translations).

The core of the repertoire comes from Debussy and Fauré, but there are also Verlaine settings by Ernest Chausson, Reynaldo Hahn, and André Caplet, as well as by a handful of the performers’ composing friends and colleagues (one of these is Bernard Foccroulle who runs the Aix-en-Provence Festival and is a former boss of the Monnaie opera house in Brussels, which has supported this recording).

Karthäuser’s control of tone and mood is outstanding, superbly supported by pianist Cédric Tiberghien, who is with her at every twist and turn in the musical line. It’s all done with great tenderness and each shift of light is caught with the subtlest of brushstrokes. An outstanding disc.

George Hall Read the full review on Agora Classica

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