In this latest instalment of Debussy songs from Hyperion, British soprano Lucy Crowe teams up with pianist Malcolm Martineau for a satisfying recital that plays to many of her strengths. Although her silvery instrument has lost some security at the top, Crowe’s calling cards – purity of tone, clarity of diction, and an admirable security of pitch – serve her well on this release.
Although known as a more subdued interpreter, Crowe’s restrained approach is appropriate here. Her unfussy, often imaginative phrasing and vocal colouring holds her in good stead in something like the Rondel chinois, with its multiple vocalise, and Flots, palmes, sables, an intriguing selection that combines harp and piano to good effect.
Elsewhere, Crowe shows a deal of wit in the Séguidille, coping well with its many trills and roulades and infusing the words with real bite. She also manages to pair a delicacy of tone with a sense of restlessness in Les Papillons, with Martineau offering up some equally nuanced playing. In En sourdine, with its balance of plain language and murky symbolist imagery, Crowe’s understated delivery lends the music an attractive transparency. She lightens and darkens her sound with subtlety, masterfully evoking Debussy’s twilight scene.
A little bit more irony is probably required for the headier songs like Jane and La fille aux cheveux de lin, but Crowe’s unerring sense of legato and innate musicality holds her in good stead. However, one of the undisputed standouts on this disc is Beau soir, with the soprano finding a real pathos in its exploration of life and death.