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Briefly Noted: Michel Legrand and Natalie Dessay

available at Amazon
Entre elle et lui, N. Dessay, M. Legrand, et al.

(released on October 29, 2013)
Erato 934148 2 | 65'32"
Crossover is normally off limits here at Ionarts, but my francophilia gets the better of me with this new release. So this recommendation applies only to readers who share my weaknesses -- for jazz, for the film scores of Michel Legrand (especially in the films of Jacques Demy), for French song, and for Natalie Dessay. Legrand, one of my favorite film composers, made a very rare visit to the Washington area in 2009, which through a calendar mishap, I managed to miss having the chance to review. This new disc gives me hope that I may get another chance to hear Legrand live, if there is a related U.S. tour. Dessay sings all Legrand songs in this selection, with the composer at the piano, joined at times by bass, drums, and harp, with vocal turns by soprano Patricia Petibon, baritone Laurent Naouri. Legrand himself sings in two of the more moving performances.

Legrand's voice and hands at the piano sound just fine, for someone who is now in his 80s, and Dessay is not quite up to snuff in only a few cases. (It takes a while to realize that Dessay is singing in English in the song from Yentl, for example. If you are looking for translations of the French songs and one Russian song, you are out of luck, by the way.) Legrand turns a lot to the same formulas: there are moments in Les moulins de mon coeur, made for the film The Thomas Crown Affair, that sound an awful lot like sections of the score for Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, for example. Legrand's credentials are strong on both sides of the jazz-classical divide: he studied with Nadia Boulanger but was also formed by jazz he heard in Paris. Where he excels are the songs that sound best on this album, the slow ballads in minor keys that are infused with ineffable Gallic sadness (La valse des lilas, Les moulins de mon coeur, the song of Guy and Geneviève from Parapluies de Cherbourg, The Summer Knows, Mon dernier concert). A guilty pleasure.

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