Etienne Dupuis: “Love Blows as the Wind Blows”
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Etienne Dupuis: “Love Blows as the Wind Blows”

spacer Songs by Butterworth, Barber, Bush, and Coallier. Quatuor Claudell-Canimex. Texts, no translations. ACD2 2701(1)

Recordings Etienne DuPuis Cover 615

Songs from the early and mid-twentieth century make up the bulk of “Love Blows as the Wind Blows,” a new disc issued by ATMA Classique, featuring the young Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis and the Quatuor Claudel-Canimex. Included are song cycles by George Butterworth and Geoffrey Bush, two Samuel Barber works, and French songs by Rejean Coallier; in addition, “Danny Boy” is thrown in for good measure.

Dupuis possesses a pleasant, light lyric baritone and has gained a modicum of notice in Europe and Canada in roles such as Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Figaro, and Marcello. On this disc, his voice works best in softer passages, where the tone is plush and dark. But the voice lacks any real distinctive quality, and his interpretive choices seem to lack depth; he achieves only a generalized mood of melancholy on the dramatic songs. He is better in the lighter selections, managing a palpable sense of joy in Bush’s “When May Is In His Prime.” There is some sense of tentativeness in the singing, as if this young baritone has not yet found his personal “take” on this material. Alarmingly, the voice spreads unpleasantly under any pressure, particularly at high volume.

Oddly, there is nothing in the accompanying booklet to indicate the raison d’etre of this disc. Why were these particular composers’ works chosen? Is there any thematic similarity that ties them together? Does Dupuis have a particular liking for these songs? Even his brief biography mentions only his operatic work, nothing at all about his song recital experience. 

The Quatuor Claudel-Canimex accompanies beautifully throughout, and the one instrumental track on the disc, Barber’s familiar “Adagio for Strings,” is played superbly and it packs an emotional punch.

The first four tracks are songs of shared love and nostalgic sadness by British composer George Butterworth, set to poems by William Ernest Henley (famous for his 1875 “Invictus”). The songs are quite inventive melodically, and are clearly influenced by Debussy. The last of the four, “On the Way to Kew,” finds Dupuis in good voice and Henley’s words are achingly nostalgic and moving.

The five songs of Geoffrey Bush’s cycle “Farewell, Earth’s Bliss” effectively contrast the happiness of life’s prime with the slow march of life’s end. The most effective singing from Dupuis comes in the four selections in French from Montreal pianist-composer Rejean Coallier, originally written for baritone and piano but later adapted for string quartet, set to poems by the Quebeçois poet Sylvain Garneau, who died at age twenty-three in 1953. Dupuis sings with exquisite delicacy here in these lovely songs of nature’s beauty and lost love, and shows some subtle shadings and colors that are lacking in the selections in English. spacer 


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