(Incluant "Les plus jolies chansons de France") / Felicity Lott, soprano - William Burden, ténor - Stephen Varcoe, baryton - Graham Johnson, piano - Polyphony, dir. Stephen Layton...
Two-and-a-half hours of Chabrier songs may seem overly generous for all but the most ardent fan, but after two discs, listeners will be left wanting even more. As accompanist Graham Johnson says in a note, those "who do not love Chabrier as a composer have not yet taken the trouble to get to know him". The amazing thing is the sheer range of his vocal writing, from rousing tub thumpers to intimate little soufflés, with a good deal of humour, as you would expect of the man who dealt with an unwanted sticky bun by shoving it in Wagners shirt drawer. There could be no better introduction to the music than this glorious set, part of Hyperions French Song Edition. The lioness share of the 43 songs is taken by Dame Felicity Lott, who is second to none in this repertoire, whether in a tender love song or the barnstorming vocal version of the celebrated Espana. She is joined by a first-class line-up, on a set which constantly surprises and delights. The usual scholarly but highly accessible notes by Johnson add greatly to the enjoyment. --Keith Clarke