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Classical

Chanson d’avril

Nicole Cabell, soprano

Craig Terry, piano

[Delos]

3.5 stars

Nicole Cabell was featured on Buffalo’s Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series, as one of the Tick up-and-comers. Now, sure enough, she has gone on to good things. This disc of French songs puts a handful of composers – Georges Bizet, Henri Duparc, Franz Liszt and Maurice Ravel – in what for many listeners will be a new light. Cabell should be commended for choosing an enchanting program. Praise should also go to the liner notes, which not only give you texts and translations but readable little introductions telling you what to listen for. Angel Records did this years ago for its Seraphim introduction to German Lieder, and when I was a teenager it opened up a whole new world to me.

Cabell’s set starts with four songs by Bizet that can’t help but make you think of “Carmen.” The song of an Arab girl, in particular, mirrors the famous “Habanera.” We also have Bizet to thank for the beautiful title song. It’s easy to see why Brahms admired Bizet: the music has that kind of Germanic richness. In the Duparc songs – which, as the notes point out, have echoes of Wagner – the simple but ingenious piano accompaniments are a delight.

Cabell’s voice, expressive without being fussy, also wraps itself around several enchanting songs by Liszt, helping to bring out the music’s wit and sensuality. Cabell shines in the famously lovely “Oh! quand je dors.” After all that lyricism, Ravel’s “Sheherazade” and “Cinq melodies populaires grecques” seem abstract and hysterical. But fans of these exotic songs will be happy with how Cabell treats them.

– Mary Kunz Goldman