Last year marked the centenary of the first collaboration between Les Six – the group of six composers who gathered around Eric Satie. Five of the six composers were French – Auric, Durey, Milhaud, Poulenc and Tailleferre; the exception was Honegger who was Swiss. That first collaboration was a selectin of solo piano pieces under the title L’Album des Six. The following they collaborated on a ballet, Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel.

Les Six

In their first recorded disc together, Swiss soprano Franziska Heinzen (a recent Britten-Pears young artist) and pianist Benjamin Mead have decided to celebrate the group in a fine recital of solo piano pieces and mélodies.

Ingeniously programmed, each of the six composers is presented in alphabetical order with each introduced by a solo piano piece played with suitable colour and wit.  Heinzen has an attractive soprano voice without resorting to unnecessary bother. All selections display a complete understanding of the French idiom, sung directly and without affect. Similarly, her understanding and approach to the text is both idiomatic and sympathetic in what can often be rather abstract or obtuse settings familiar with poetry by the likes of Rilke, Cocteau, and the latter’s early-departed partner Raymond Radiguet, whilst also going back to the often critical and satirical Voltaire.

Les Six is a well-constructed and well-chosen disc – the instrumental pieces are early, dating from c.1920 while the songs cover a 20-year period from 1920-1940. While the Poulenc choices, for example, are relatively known, there are two cycles here – by Georges Auric (dating from 1940) and Louis Durey from 1920, which are receiving their premiere recorded performances.

Listen on Apple Music

Title: Les Six
Works: Song cycles by Auric, Poulenc, Tailleferre, Milhaud, Durey, Honegger and Satie
Performers: Franziska Heinzen s, Benjamin Mead p
Label: Solo Musica SM357

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