Claire Croiza      (2-Marston 52018)
Item# V1953
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Claire Croiza      (2-Marston 52018)
V1953. CLAIRE CROIZA: Champion of the Modern French Mélodie (The Complete Recordings), incl. Songs by Schubert, Debussy, Fauré, Duparc, Honegger, Roussel, de Bréville, Vuillermoz, Poulenc (the latter’s LE BESTIAIRE), de Sévérac, Caplet, etc.; Arias from PELLÉAS (Debussy), JUDITH (Honegger) & L’ORESTIE D’ESCHYLE (Milhaud); CLAIRE CROIZA reading excerpts from the poems LE MYSTÈRE DES SAINTS INNOCENTS and LE PORCHE DU MYSTÈRE DE LA DEUXIÈME VERTU by Charles Péguy, and the plays ESTHER and ATHALIE by Jean Racine. 2-Marston 52018, recorded 1927-36. Transfers by Ward Marston. Very Long out-of-print; Final Rare Copy! - 638335201825


“Claire Croiza was one of the great French singers of the earlier years of this century. Although she made her début at the Opéra at Nancy as early as 1905, then at the Paris Opéra in 1908, Croiza did not record any of the many operatic mezzo roles or French songs in her repertory until 1927. Although she had at this point been singing for twenty-two years, her voice was then in fine condition and remained so until her last recordings made in 1936. Beginning in 1934, she taught at the Paris Conservatory, where her students included some of the finest French singers of the next generation — Jacques Jansen, Gérard Souzay, Camille Maurane, Janine Micheau, Suzanne Juyol and many others.

Ward Marston, in a labor of love, has provided a great service to afficionados of French vocal music: He has gathered the complete recordings of Croiza in this two-CD album. This is no mean achievement, particularly in view of the scarcity of Croiza’s records. Victor Girard, in his accompanying notes, observes that ‘Three of them … are probably among the most elusive recordings in the world….’ Here is an object lesson in the art of French singing in quite good, if slightly dry sound, considering the recording dates.

The first disc opens with an excerpt from Debussy’s PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE (the beginning of Act I, Scene 2) with Croiza a sensitive Geneviève, and the fine bass Armand Narçon an authoritative Arkel. Two Schubert songs, the great ‘An die Musik’ and ‘Wohin?’ (From DIE SCHÖNE MÜLLERIN) are sung in French.

Three Fauré songs, ‘Les berceaux’, ‘Claire de lune’, and ‘Prison’, are models of French song performance, the exquisite piano melody of ‘Claire de lune’ one of the loveliest things in French song. ‘Prison’ is an unusual song for Fauré. It is a setting of Verlaine’s poem recalling his own incarceration for the attempted murder of his friend Rimbaud. Croiza perfectly captures the personal bitterness, hopelessness and drama so rare in Fauré’s songs.

A fine, serious reading of Poulenc’s LE BESTIAIRE, with Poulenc himself at the piano, is revealing. Poulenc plays the grace notes in ‘La carpe’ before the beat and slows his pace where the score does not indicate this. It is colorful playing.

Duparc’s ‘L’invitation au voyage’, one of his finest songs, is sung directly, the exquisite nostalgia of the poem perfectly captured by Croiza, with Poulenc a fine partner at the piano in a coruscating accompaniment.

With Poulenc again at the piano, Croiza gives a vital performance of Debussy’s ‘Il pleure dans mon coeur’ from his ARIETTES OUBLIÉES, set to Verlaine’s poem.

Songs of Arthur Honegger (with Honegger at the piano) and excerpts from his opera JUDITH, along with songs of Roussel (with Roussel at the piano) and Pierre de Bréville round out the first of the two discs. De Bréville (1861-1949) has been all but forgotten in recent years, though his songs, along with his opera EROS VAINQUEUR, were critically acclaimed at the time. Croiza sang the title rôle in the opera’s première in Brussels in 1910. Five of his songs are sung here by Croiza, with de Bréville providing the accompaniment. In the first of these de Bréville songs, ‘Une jeune fille parle’, Croiza exquisitely spins out the long melodic line. In all of these, she marvelously captures the mood of each song.

The Honegger JUDITH, composed in 1926, provides a startling contrast. This is an intensely dramatic, modern work in which Honegger uses a speaker to objectivize the drama in a way analogous to the use of the narrator in Protestant oratorio. The manner in which he uses the voice to alternately speak, whisper, scream, hum or murmur has been quite influential, and these excerpts (which continue on the second CD) are exciting glimpses of a rarely heard work. Croiza is extraordinarily expressive in these, both singing as Judith and reciting as the speaker. For a time, Croiza maintained a liaison with Honegger and bore him a son.

Fauré’s ‘Soir’ is sung more slowly than in almost any other recorded performance. Croiza’s technique here is not flawless — a few broken phrases and an imperfect top are essentially redeemed by her fine sense of the subdued mood of the song. Duparc’s ‘Chanson triste’ is here intensely personal, elegiac, intimate, though Croiza occasionally runs out of breath. Fauré’s ‘Après un rêve’ gets one of its fastest recorded performances, totally unsentimental but sensitive, the song’s yearning intensity perfectly captured. Evidently, Fauré himself told Croiza that the song should be sung ‘without slowing down’, and she learned the lesson well.

Duparc’s ‘Chanson triste’ gets a highly intimate interpretation, as does his ‘Lamento’, where Croiza, unlike other interpreters, carefully respects the composer’s markings and gives much the best performance of this song on record. Her pianissimi here are beautifully expressive. It is a shame that she did not get around to recording Duparc’s complete song output (consisting of just fourteen songs).

Two songs of the sadly neglected composer Déodat de Séverac (referred to here as Joseph de Séverac), ‘Ma poupée chérie’ and ‘Albado’ (or ‘Aubade’) receive straightforward, sensitive performances. Croiza also performs songs of Debussy, Roussel, and Caplet here. These are all models of style in the singing of French song. Finally, she reads excerpts from some long free-verse poems of the Catholic mystic poet Charles Péguy (1873-1914), as well as from Racine’s play ESTHER. Translations for these readings (but not for the song texts) are provided.

Croiza’s expressive voice, superb diction, and fine sense of style, made of her an ideal interpreter of French song. To anyone interested in the genre, these recordings are invaluable.”

- Maurice Richter, LA FOLIA, Aug., 1999

"So much material of historic importance is presented here that it is hard to know where to begin. Poulenc accompanies Croiza in Poulenc (LE BESTIARE), not to mention Duparc and Debussy. Honegger accompanies her in three of his songs, and Roussel in four of his. The more recondite figure of Pierre de Bréville joins Croiza in five of his admittedly less original but nevertheless beautifully wrought ‘mélodies’….Fauré’s ‘Après un rêve’, over whose performance Croiza had consulted the composer…is here, as are many other items written by musicians who admired her without qualifications….Croiza achieves a remarkable balance between musical and textural values, which is why not only composers praised her, but also poets.”

- George Hall, IOC, Summer, 1999