Critique du CD Naxos de Georges Taconet

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We have not heard from Taconet before. Marco Polo now remove that lacuna. He was born in Normandy the son of a ship-owner. He studied harmony with George Vierne, brother of Louis. He was active in Paris but seems to have done well in Le Havre - a significant artistic centre which drew the great and the good of the musical world. His music takes its first international bow with this disc.

Dominque Méa has a boyishly hooting yet pleasing soprano. Her instrument is at times placed under considerable strain by Taconet's high-lying writing. With Méa fluttering under pressure we still get a pretty fair impression of these fourteen songs. The dreamy, hooded and tranced tone of these songs places them in the Duparc and early Fauré lineage. He too had a predilection for steady or more usually slow tempi and moods to match. From this it is clear that song lies at the heart of Taconet's output; there are sixty in all. His choice of poet took in Samain, de Lisle, de Régnier, Verlaine and Prud'homme.

Among the fourteen the gems are the ecstatically inclined Elégie, the limpid melody of Les Sources, the almost lively Rondel (to words by Charles d'Orléans) and Chanson (words: Gabriel Vicaire). Méa is well served by pianist Carlos Cebro who tempers all with warmth and rippling buoyancy as in the Samain setting, Soir.

In addition to the songs we are offered a 24 minute and four movement violin sonata dating from the mid-1920s. It was premiered at Le Havre by the composer and the violinist Emile Damais on 8 December 1935. Here is a work of plunging Franckian lyricism, much more surgingly outgoing than the songs. After the surge of the allegro agitato comes a more delicate, pointed and mercurial scherzo - anxious yet playful. The Andante is marked Pénétrant and its subdued heads-bowed tenor may link back to the losses of the Great War. Taconet served in the French Army and few can have emerged unchanged from those four years. Even so his allegro vivace casts aside cloying thoughts and breezes along with singing vitality ... ringing with hints and echoes of French folksong. It recalled for me the Dunhill Second Violin Sonata and also the as yet unrecorded sonata by Cyril Rootham.

I was pleased to make the acquaintance of these works. The performance of the songs is flawed yet their enchanted spirit is eloquently enough put across. The Sonata is a kindly work with its emotional anchor found in a poignant Andante.

Another name to be added to the great neglecteds of France alongside Bonnal, Witkowski and d'Ollonne. I hope to hear more of Taconet's music especially the 1930 Piano Quintet. The subtly fragranced songs would make a very rewarding project for any up-and-coming young singer ready to surmount their technical and artistic demands.

Rob Barnett