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Visions illuminées

Mary Bevan (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano); 12 Ensemble; Ruisi Quartet (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Visions illuminées
Britten: Les illuminations; A Holmès: Sérénades; plus songs by Debussy, Duparc, Chabrier, Chausson, Fauré and Ravel
Mary Bevan (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano); 12 Ensemble; Ruisi Quartet
Signum Classics SIGCD735   74:58 mins


Mary Bevan’s affinity for French song was apparent in her debut CD recital, Voyages. With Visions illuminées, Bevan draws on an additional palette of instrumental colours, being joined not just by regular partner Joseph Middleton, but also 12 Ensemble and the Ruisi Quartet. Despite the title, much is dark in hue, the music exploring shade amidst the light.

Rarely heard chamber and ensemble settings by Holmès, Chausson, Chabrier, Duparc and Fauré are supplemented by Robin Holloway’s masterfully idiomatic arrangements of songs by Ravel and Debussy. The aching remembrance of Chabrier’s magical Tes yeux bleus, in the composer’s own beautifully understated arrangement for strings (recorded here for the first time), is worth the price of the disc alone. Bevan and the conductorless 12 Ensemble move as one organism as she glides mesmerisingly over their ebbing and flowing pulse. The heart of the recital, though, is a radiantly searching performance of Britten’s Les illuminations.

Middleton and the Ruisi Quartet underpin the recital’s final third. Bevan’s ability to combine warmth with refreshing vigour is to the fore in Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle and the Debussy songs grouped by Holloway as Quatre mélodies de Verlaine. Her effervescence in Augusta Holmés’s delectable Serenades, another first recording, provides a sunny conclusion that perfectly balances the opening luminous nocturne of Fauré’s Clair de lune.


Christopher Dingle