Composers: Chausson, Elgar, Joncières
Compositions: Poème de l’amour et de la merSea PicturesLa Mer
Performers: Marie-Nicole Lemieux ms, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine/Paul Daniel
Catalogue Number: Erato 9029542433

Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s latest recording is a pleasure, seeing the Canadian contralto languidly make her way through a program of works inspired by the sea. The usual suspects are here – Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer – but their familiarity is offset by the world premiere recording of Victorin Joncières’ La Mer, a set of four evocative songs.

Composed in 1881, La Mer sets poetry by Édouard Guinand, and sees the soloist give voice to the ocean, characterised as a seductive force that lures humans to their death. Calling to mind Massenet, the perfumed nature of the vocal writing and harmonic language is a perfect fit for Lemieux’s plush instrument. Her linguistic authority is unimpeachable, as is the musicality of her singing and ability to take a rather conventional phrase into unexpected but delightful territory.

All this stands her in good stead for Sea Pictures, with Lemieux demonstrating an intuitive grasp of the required style. She gives a delicate, affecting account of Where corals lie, while The Swimmer is imbued with an involving urgency.

The most rewarding listening comes in the Chausson, supremely elegant and assured in phrasing and articulation. It’s an account that stands with the best of them.

Paul Daniel and the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine prove themselves marvellous partners.