John Plant, Jocelyne Fleury
Ensemble Prima, Mélanie Léonard Conductor
Vocal works in eight languages
Available for purchase through MSR Classics
“The surprise is how good these pieces are. The scena, the extended, dramatic vocal aria in particular puts up obstacles in a composer's way. It can easily degenerate into mere musical meandering, mainly because unlike more contained and explicit song-poetry, it forces a composer to invent a musical structure. Many writers go the "easy" route of responding in the moment. The results tend to natter. On the other hand, the usual composing strategies tend to make hash of the narrative flow of a poem. The composer has the task of shaping a coherent musical structure to that narrative. It seems that only the really great vocal composers bring it off: Brahms, Mahler, Wagner, Strauss, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Vaughan Williams, Debussy, Fauré, Britten, Barber, and so on. Plant succeeds in every item here.
Plant's literary taste is not only impeccable, but shows a fellow who reads widely and deeply…
Plant speaks tonally…
If I had to compare him to another composer, I'd say Barber, especially the Barber of the extended vocal works: Dover Beach, Knoxville, and Andromache's Farewell. There's that same integrity of vocal line and an essentially Romantic outlook without eschewing the grit of dissonance and the ambiguous key center. Three poems get settings ranging from ten to nearly twenty minutes. It takes real control to keep something that long together. My favorite setting was probably of Lorca's Romance sonámbulo. Plant takes advantage of textual repetitions to suggest ballad structure within something essentially organic form. The point is, however, that it does have form.
Most of the performers, including the composer himself at the piano, do really well. The songs sweep along. [Jocelyne Fleury is] an intelligent, incredibly musical singer, who can instill you with the poems' emotions. … she reminded me of the incomparable Jennie Tourel…
...this disc should appeal to listeners on the lookout for distinguished songs.”
Steve Schwartz, ClassicalNet - January 2012
"listening to this reveals a major talent that deserves to crop up in international recitals... Sound is airy and well defined.. MSR’s admirable presentation extends to good notes, texts, and translations."
Rayfield, Fanfare - January / February 2011
"Plant’s music is striking... the writing for solo piano and chamber orchestra, in the accompaniments, is colorful and well crafted. The three longer pieces on the album display a natural sense for theatrical vividness."
Burwasser, Fanfare - January / February 2011
"[This] is beautiful, thoughtful music... Jocelyn Fleury's diction is clear... [she has a] rich voice... her singing is expressive... Composer Plant is the fine pianist, and Melanie Leonard leads sensitive playing by her Montreal-based Ensemble Prima."
Kilpatrick, American Record Guide - September / October 2010
"[John Plant has] a regard for language that is purely metaphysical and a skill in handling words musically which is uniquely his own... It is an inspiring sampling of music... Everything is sung by Jocelyne Fleury with a sense of wonder and a voice that seems to feel no fear at exploring timbres combined with a relish for words that reach into the poets' hearts. In addition to his deeply sensitive piano playing, Plant contributes evocatively descriptive liner-notes which are so beautifully written they can almost be read as poetry themselves. The recordings have a slightly dusky, penetrating air."
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone - July 2010