Véronique Gens recently gave a recital, at the London Wigmore Hall, dedicated to French melodies and accompanied by the pianist Susan Manoff, acclaimed by the critics.
« The soprano and her pianist Susan Manoff brought unforced sincerity and immediacy to a revelatory all-French programme
Véronique Gens is one of today’s great interpreters of French song, an artist deeply committed to the re-evaluation of her chosen repertory in performances of unforced sincerity and immediacy. Her latest Wigmore recital, programmed with her customary intelligence, placed Henri Duparc and Reynaldo Hahn alongside Edmond de Polignac’s rarely heard Lamento, and works by Charles Gounod, Jules Massenet and Jacques Offenbach, composers whose songs are frequently considered inferior to their operatic outputs, an erroneous view, as Gens reminded us.
Her singing is characterised by great tonal warmth, a total absence of overt histrionics, and a telling but understated way with words: we’re always conscious of the beauty of the language as well as the music. Gens’s Hahn was knowing and bittersweet as the contained passion of Les Cygnes gave way to the erotic regret of Infidélité. Gounod’s Le Soir oscillated between hope and despair, while Polignac’s Lamento sent shivers down your spine with its eerie allure. In an evening of revelations, two of Offenbach’s early Fables de La Fontaine stood out: they contain in embryo the barbed wit of the mature composer, and Gens delivered them with a flair and style that were utterly delightful.
Gens’s pianist, her regular recital partner, was Susan Manoff, wonderfully alert to the constantly shifting relationship between singer and accompanist. Duparc’s piano writing in Extase sounded sumptuously Wagnerian, while the tremulous figurations that underscore Gounod’s Mignon exposed a whole world of anxiety beneath the vocal line. Among their encores was Hahn’s Néère, a song that Gens has very much made her own of late. The performance was perfection, and its austere beauty took one’s breath away. »
Tim Ashley – The Guardian
© Franck Juery