Canteloube – Chants D’Auvergne

Canteloube – Chants D’Auvergne (Veronique Gens) – 3.5/5

Taking folk songs native to the Auvergne region of France, Canteloube reworked them for operatic symphonies, and in doing so created this altogether unique style; with many of the orchestral multi-layered complexities, fluttering flutes, violins, and trumpets, soprano vocals (delivered superbly by Veronique Gens, singing in the native Auvergnian tongue), as well as more traditional folk instrumentation such as the subtle backing of bagpipes in ‘Malurous…,’ and has managed to create something upbeat and vibrant, boisterous in its delivery, yet somehow capable of slowing things down enough as if to drift by like a gentle wind. Interestingly, Cantaloube is a composer who wrote these melodies and then seemingly disappeared, only serving to increase how unique the tone is here.

The folk passages never feel overwhelmed by instrumentation; the many layers utilized in a subtle manner to accent the main melody rather than detract from it. The atmosphere succeeds in very naturally providing a beautiful delicate tone that altogether feels ‘alive,’ not just with its almost nature-like reminiscent warm tones, but everything simply succeeds in fleeting with definite life and energy, whether boisterous, folk-dance in tone or barren and depressive the orchestra succeeds in performing the marvelous compositions that accent the original folk tone marvelously.

But I would be foolish to believe that this piece would be half as successful without the sublime work from the soprano prowess of Veronique Gens. More attuned to Baroque style than the latter romantic-era of operatic music, and actually from the Auvergne region in France which this piece is based, she lends an impressively powerful performance. During the slower, more delicate passages the intensity of her voice feels so carefully confined; the manner in which she transitions between pitches feels perfectly natural, capable of both rapid transitions and slower, drawn out notes. Even the use of vibrato feels as though it has been carefully orchestrated in such a manner to produce a vocal marvel that remains distinctly classical, but with the embodiment of the folk spirit.

Sadly this is not the complete piece (indeed the complete work in its entirety is very long), but has not fallen into the trap that has plagued other releases whereby tracks have been cut short so as to fit more on. This despicable practice is gladly nowhere to be seen here, and is instead followed on by his ‘Chants D’Auvergne Vol. 2,’ with Ms. Gens once more reprising her role for the position. Despite this, it showcases an impressive collection from a forgotten operatic classic work, delivered in style that many a classical music fan may find interest in.

Highlights: Bailero (The Good Shephard [Approximately]), Le Delaissado (Deserted), Malurous Qu’o Uno Fenno (Unfortunate is He Who Has a Wife)