The brief but close friendship between Chausson and Debussy was based, it would seem, on the attraction of opposites. The bourgeois, god-fearing, happily married Chausson, living on inherited money in a spacious apartment on the fashionable Boulevard de Courcelles, was free to pursue high-minded, respectable projects like his Symphony in B flat, declaring his allegiance to his teacher, the pater seraphicus, César Franck, or his opera, Le Roi Arthus, an attempt to transplant Wagner onto French soil. Debussy on the other hand, a bohemian, an atheist, with a roving eye, especially for green-eyed blondes and a love-hatred for Wagner that would inspire many of his finest works, was to be beholden to no one – hence his famous reply when asked what rules he followed: ‘Mon plaisir’. But it was in the field of the mélodie that the two men came closest.
Yet put the two composers side by side, as we witness in this creatively and intelligently conceived recital, and it takes your breath away. This was one of Christine Schäfer’s earliest recordings, during which time she was signed to Deutsche Grammophon, and Irwin Gage’s pianism is no mere ‘accompaniment’ – it is a vital ingredient and a partnership of equals.
Dans la forêt du charme et de l’enchantement, Op. 36 No. 2
Quatre Mélodies Op. 13
Le Temps des lilas, Op. 19 No. 3
Fêtes galantes (1er Recueil)
Sept Mélodies, Op. 2
Quatre Mélodies, Op. 8 Maurice Bouchor
Deux Duos, Op. 11 (Stella Doufexis, mezzo-soprano)
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Irwin Gage, piano
Executive Producer: Dr. Marion Thiem
Recording Producer: Christoph Franke
Balance Engineer: Rainer Maillard
Recording Location: Teldec-Studio, Berlin, Germany, June 1999
‘Christine Schäfer brings concentration and poise to each of these songs, and sings seemingly effortlessly in her exquisite high lyric soprano … There is no feeling of routine in these studio performances and the accompaniments by Irwin Gage are exemplary in their equal sensitivity and well balanced by Rainer Maillard, who does not suppress the piano at all at climaxes … A first class CD, recommended unreservedly.’ MusicWeb International