Nusch Musiques de Francis Poulenc
Danny Manners & Louis Philippe
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Having dipped a toe into the songs of Francis Poulenc with an interpretation of "Montparnasse" on the Sunshine album, Louis Philippe opted for full immersion with this collection, a labor of love that was certain to leave all but his most loyal fans just a little perplexed. Abandoning the lush orchestrations of Azure, he is accompanied throughout only by the impeccable piano of Danny Manners, who also performs two solo pieces. The songs are drawn from across the range of Poulenc's output, from relatively familiar works like "La Grenouillere" to lesser-known pieces like "Bleuet" and "Tu Vois Le Feu du Soir." Yet although there's no questioning the reverence and commitment that Philippe and Manners bring to this project, whether it will strike the listener as a brave or reckless undertaking is less certain. For a pop singer, even attempting to negotiate such fearsomely complex material might be considered foolhardy, and it's a measure of Philippe's technique that he copes admirably, if not always effortlessly. Aficionados of Poulenc's work will, however, be used to hearing it interpreted by classically trained singers, and many will feel that Philippe's pure but reedy voice lacks the gravitas and control of a seasoned baritone. Anyone coming at this from the world of pop and rock, on the other hand, might find that his more intimate and informal approach offers a less daunting way into some undeniably beautiful and rarely heard music. The album ends with an unbilled version of "Deauville," one of Philippe's own — and most memorable — songs and one that is by no means disgraced by such elevated company.