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Album Review: Moonlight Reflections / Stacey Alleaume

Moonlight Reflections

Stacey Alleaume, soprano/ Amir Farid, piano

Move Records, March 2021

Soprano Stacey Alleaume’s debut album Moonlight Reflections is a collection of rarely heard Art Song. Accompanied by pianist Amir Farid and at times, by violinist Erica Kennedy and cellist Zoe Knighton, the selections span French, English and Italian repertoire. Released by Move Records, it will be available in late March 2021.

Mauritian – Australian Stacey Alleaume’s Moonlight Reflections songbook is focussed on French mélodie, with most of the selections drawn from, or influenced by this repertoire. The description was coined by Berlioz in reference to his compositions for one voice and piano accompaniment. Pierre Bernac quotes Debussy in defining the distinctive style of mélodie, which Debussy says, is due to “clarity of expression, precision and concentration of form.” Bernac goes on to say “in the French mélodie, the singer and the pianist must succeed in combining precision with lyricism. But it must be controlled lyricism, for just as the French composer never gives way to sentimentality or emphasis and abominates overstatement, so in the same way, his interpreters must have a sense of moderation…”

Alleaume bursts into song with the opening track, Chaminade’s L’été, which is all coloratura exuberance and dizzying leaps in register. The song is brief but demanding and makes you sit up and listen. There is seamless fluidity, even tone and pinpoint accuracy through the registers, ending on a sparkling high A. Duparc’s L’invitation au voyage is described by Bernac as one of the most beautiful in the song collection. A complete contrast, its tempo marking presque lent describes with longing the poet’s land of dreams, Holland.  Alleaume and Farid use the rising vocal line with its sudden octave drops, anchored by the restless lines of the piano to vividly illustrate the nature of the poet’s dreams.

Two songs by Venezuelan-French composer Reynaldo Hahn are performed with an engaging contrast, L’enamourée showcases Alleaume’s sensuous rich lower register. In the mesmerising baroque-styled and pared-back A Chloris, Alleaume and Farid show off the partnership between pianist and singer, encapsulating an essential feature of Art Song – that the two are separate but supportive; equal, but contrasting.

Two songs by Massenet, Être aimé and Amoureuse are worthy inclusions. They are attractive songs, part of the genre and well performed by the artists, despite Bernac’s icy refusal to endorse Massenet’s’ songs on the grounds that his “unique gift and fluency…(led)…in his melodies to a sugary sentimentalism.” Bernac may have been appeased by the inclusion and sensitive execution of the track that follows, Saint-Saëns exquisitely refined cameo Clair de lune.

Joining Cécile Chaminade in the line-up of female composers, Alleaume has included songs by Bostonian pianist and composer Amy Beach. Alleaume takes to Beach’s late-Romantic style with ease. First, the French inspired Fauré-like Chanson d’amour, enhanced by a lyrical cello part and later, the closing bracket of Three Browning Songs, opus 44 1,2,3 The Year’s at the Spring, Ah, Love, but a Day and I send my heart up to thee. 

Frank Bridge is the sole English composer in the collection (O that it were so!) presumably because some of his song writing contains the influence of Debussy and Fauré amongst others.

Two songs by Puccini Terra e mare and Sole e amore are an apt selection for the operatically experienced Alleaume who brings a touch of the Italian romantic style to the recording. Farid’s delicate interpretation of the piano part allows the voice to shine. If Sole e amore sounds familiar, it is because it is the precursor to what became the final quartet in Act 3 of La boheme. A nice gesture, as the singer ends the song with the phrase ”To Paganini from G. Puccini”.

The playlist is rounded out with four more Italian songs, Stornello by Cimara, and three gems by Respighi – Notte, Nebbie and Contrasto.

The liner notes contain performer biographies and the text and translations of the songs. Some insights from the performers about the choice of repertoire, their responses to the music or the history of the songs would have added an extra personal touch. Moonlight Reflections was recorded between July and November 2020 at Oaklands Recording Studios in Victoria, Australia and engineered by Jarrad Gilson.

Moonlight Reflections is a charming and illuminating portrait album of a soprano on an upward trajectory. In the recording studio, the singer must perform without the energy of the audience and support of visual cues, props, costumes and without being able to act. With this repertoire Alleaume explores new ground. Indeed, she brings a sense of the operatic to some of the songs with flourishes and opulent endings. Alleume tells her tale well and we look forward to more from this talented soprano.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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