When Susan Graham and Malcolm Martineau gave a concert of mélodies at the Terrace Theater in 2007, I expressed the hope that "this recital program will be Graham's next recording." And thus it came to pass, this past March, that the duo recorded almost the same program in London. It brings together a score and some of pieces by a score of composers from the 19th and 20th centuries, with very few old favorites. Both Graham (at the concert) and Martineau (in the liner notes) describe the program as a "tasting menu," a connoisseur's guided tour of the less traveled départements of French song. As far as I can tell, only Debussy's Harmonie du Soir and Gounod's Où voulez-vous aller? disappeared from the program heard at the Terrace Theater, the latter replaced by the same composer's Au rossignol. Graham also happily chose to include Reynaldo Hahn’s pleasing À Chloris, which she gave as an encore at the Terrace Theater, calling it "possibly my favorite song in the world." (It is a duplication, as she already used the song to open her very much worthwhile Reynaldo Hahn CD, with Roger Vignoles, but no one is likely to complain.) Graham's voice is one of the silkiest among today's mezzo-sopranos, perhaps on the small side by comparison to others, but that is actually a bonus in the song repertoire. Her low range is smooth and rarely forced, though with plenty of sound in Saint-Saëns's Danse macabre, a mistuned waltz for zig-zagging skeletons. One of the best songs is Emile Paladilhe's Psyché, the sort of slow and tender song that is exactly right for the exquisite instrument that is Susan Graham's voice.
Un frisson français, S. Graham, M. Martineau
(released on October 14, 2008)