Jared Schwartz : ANGE FLEGIER, mélodies for bass voice and piano

CD Toccata classics 0306 + click here to order the CD !!

*Click here for the website of Jared Schwartz

*Click here for the website of Mary Dibbern

Flégier is of course known to every record collector for his pièce de résistance “Le Cor” recorded by the French Pol Plançon, the Russian Chaliapine to the Italian Ezio Pinza amonst many others.  But for most of us the Flégier story ends just there. The present CD gives a very welcome biography.

Ange Flégier (1846–1925) was born in Marseilles (France) and admitted to the Conservatoire in Paris in 1866, studying composition with Ambroise Thomas. His first success was the mélodie Stances, written to a text by his friend Ferdinant Loviot. In 1869, Flégier was among the six finalists of the Prix de Rome composition with the cantata Francesca da Rimini. But he had to wait for the formidable success of his mélodie Le Cor so that he could begin to make a comfortable living from his music. Included in Flégier’s oeuvre, which contains about 350 entries, there are about one hundred piano solos and nearly 120 mélodies, many of which he orchestrated. Flégier’s song oeuvre is quite similar to that of Henri Duparc in that the piano is treated as if it were a full orchestra.

The Opéra in Marseille premiered Fatma, his only one-act opéra-comique. Among his works, important premieres included Ossian, a poème lyrique for soloists, chorus and orchestra; Scènes antiques, orchestral suite; the Fantaisie-ballet, a divertissement chorégraphique; the unusual Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and oboeNaenia, an adaptation symphonique for narrator, cello, violin, horns, and piano; the first-ever Dixtuor for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and string quintet which received the Prix Chartier of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The word “dixtuor,” Flégier’s invention, entered the Larousse dictionary of the French language the following year. In 1900, his Concerto in F Major for piano and orchestra was premiered in Paris. Several of his works were performed by the official orchestra of the Exposition Universelle of Paris in 1900. In 1919 the Opéra in Marseilles premiered his Grognards et Poilus, an opera in one act and three scenes and with Charles Friant in the main role.

On October 8, 1927, Ange Flégier passed away after a tramway accident at the age of 81.
(after a text by Hervé Oléon, translated from the French by Mary Dibbern)

The present release contains 13 songs of which 5 selections are premiere recordings. And yes, there is much more to Flégier than "de Vigny’s horn". His other songs really belong to the best of French melodies as well. Give the disc a try and you are in for a real discovery. The equally interesting booklet also has an in-depth analysis of the songs by the French musicologist Hervé Oléon, a Massenet authority. Yet Oléon- in his discussion of Le Cor - claims Auguste Affre ( a tenor !!)  made a recording of the song which afaik sadly never happened. Affre did record Flégier’s ‘Stances’ though.

The Indiana born bass Jared Schwartz who already recorded a fine Fauré and Liszt album for the Toccata label immediately sets a pretty high standard with “Le Cor” the first number of the CD. His is a fine evenly produced bass voice displaying no fear for the often extreme lower tessitura Flégier resorts to. Schwartz goes at full blast when needed but can also provide a smooth and polished mezza voce and legato. His singing is notable for consummate musicianship and a fine diction.

He found the right partner in Mary Dibbern his admirable accompanist playing with refinement, subtle shading and skillful inflexions of tone colour.

A great addition to the discography of French Lieder singing. A perfect Christmas gift for the lover of classical song and French mélodies in particular.

Operanostalgia, December 2019